Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 12 News List

TSMC to buy Atmel's 8-inch equipment

CHINA BOUND The chipmaker said some of the wafer fabrication machinery from North Tyneside, England, would be transferred to its subsidiary in Shanghai

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufac-turing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world's top chipmaker on a contract basis, yesterday said it would buy 8-inch manufacturing equipment from Atmel Corp for US$82 million as part of its broader efforts in seeking business opportunities.

The deal comes amid a growing trend in the semiconductor industry toward spending less capital on new facilities and equipment.

"It is a must for TSMC to increase 8-inch capacity as the company is unable to match customer demand. And the price is quite reasonable," said Eric Chen (陳慧明), a semiconductor analyst with BNP Paribas Securities' Taiwan branch.

The company's equipment usage at its 8-inch plants has been higher than that at its advanced 12-inch this year, he said.

TSMC said it has signed an agreement with the San Jose, California-based chipmaker to purchase 8-inch wafer fabrication equipment from Atmel's factory in North Tyneside, England, according to a statement released before the stock market opened.

"The transaction is part of our 8-inch wafer strategy, and part of the wafer fabrication equipment may be transferred to TSMC [Shanghai], our fully owned subsidiary in mainland China, for capacity expansion next year," said Wei Che-chia (魏哲家), a vice president of TSMC.

In China, TSMC is making chips on less advanced technologies ranging from 0.35 micron to 0.18 micron technologies for consumer electronics such as driver IC for liquid-crystal-display (LCD) panels. The Chinese plant may make 389,000 8-inch wafers this year.

The deal came after speculation about TSMC's short list of equipment suppliers, which included South Korean chipmaker Hynix Semiconductor Inc, Japan's Elpida Memory Inc and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Inc of the US.

"We are looking for more opportunities to buy 8-inch equipment," Tzeng Jinnhaw (曾晉皓), a TSMC spokesman, said by telephone.

TSMC hopes to expand its product portfolio and customer base for the chips made on more matured technologies in the future, Tzeng said.

Increasing its stake in local chipmaker Vanguard International Semiconductor Corp (世界先進), which is 37-percent owned by TSMC, might be an option, if the price was right, he said.

Chen said the new equipment is expected to add 156,000 8-inch wafers to the company's annual output, accounting for around 2 percent of the chipmaker's total production this year.

Global contract chipmakers may cut 25 percent to 35 percent annually in capital spending next year, which would help boost demand in the short term, Chen said, citing industry sources.

TSMC said yesterday that it had NT$29.45 billion (US$904 million) in sales last month, up 8.2 percent from a year ago. That brought the total revenues in the third quarter to NT$88.95 billion, hitting the high end of the NT$87 billion to NT$89 billion target set by the chipmaker earlier last month.

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