Dutch semiconductor equipment maker ASML Holding NV is considering setting up a research and development center for the Asia-Pacific region in Taiwan, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday.
"Taiwan welcomes any investment which can advance its industrial development. The ministry is negotiating with ASML on the possibility of opening an R&D center here," said a ministry official who declined to be named.
Discussions started in July, she said, adding that the government will provide all necessary assistance to the investment plan.
The official was responding to a report in the Chinese-language Economic Daily News that the Dutch firm is planning to invest some NT$10 billion (US$303.58 million) to establish an Asian Pacific R&D center in Taiwan.
The investment amount is yet to be finalized, the official said, but added that the reported NT$10 billion estimate likely includes the acquisition of land for the project.
The economics ministry has been keen to ink the investment pact, which, if finalized, would be the largest by a foreign semiconductor company in recent years, the report said. The ministry hoped to close the deal by the end of October, it said.
ASML, a close partner of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world's largest contract chipmaker, is interested in setting up the center in Taoyuan, the report said. ASML already has technology centers in Europe and the US.
ASML,the leading provider of lithography systems for the semiconductor industry -- the process of "printing" a circuit on silicon wafers -- controls about 60 percent of the international lithography market. ASML was thinking about establishing the center in South Korea, because Samsung is expected to overtake Intel Corp as the world's largest chipmaker in the near future, the report said.
However, the company was reluctant to move ahead with the plan due to Korea's industrial policies, commercial environment and cultural issues, the report said.
ASML considered Taiwan a better host as the country is home to TSMC and boasts the world's largest concentration of 12-inch-wafer fabrication plants. The country was also ranked as the world's number one IC packaging and testing provider last year, the report said.
The output of Taiwan's semiconductor industry is expected to rise 9.8 percent this year to NT$1.23 trillion, according to government data.