Fri, Dec 30, 2011 - Page 11 News List

Lawmaker’s visit sparks rumor of TSMC fab in US

NEW YORK BOUND?US Representative Bill Owens visited TSMC on Wednesday, but the firm has stayed mum on whether it is considering building in the state

By Kevin Chen  /  Staff Reporter

A US congressman’s reported visit to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) this week may have spurred speculations that the Taiwanese foundry company is keen to build a fab in the US, but whether such a move will materialize in the near term remains to be seen, Primasia Investment Consultancy Co said yesterday.

US Representative Bill Owens, who represents New York state, was reportedly visiting Taiwan for four days to visit with officials from TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, the state-run Central News Agency (CNA) reported on Wednesday, citing Remus Chen (陳立國), deputy director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of North American Affairs.

According to the report, Owens was expected to discuss the possibility of TSMC building a fab in New York state.

TSMC, which on Wednesday confirmed Owens’ visit to CNA, could not be reached for further comment yesterday.

SENSIBLE IDEA

“While TSMC is thus far mum on the prospect of building a fab in the upstate New York area, the growing momentum toward a 450mm wafer processing cluster there would suggest that such a move might make sense,” Primasia Investment said in a note yesterday.

Upstate New York area is current home to a cluster of semiconductor fabs, including one under construction in the Saratoga County by the Abu Dhabi-funded GlobalFoundries Inc.

ASML Holding NV, Europe’s largest maker of computer-chip manufacturing equipment, and Applied Materials Inc, the world’s largest producer of chipmaking equipment, both have 450mm (18-inch) development facilities in the state capital, Albany, according to Primasia Investment.

ASML and Applied Materials are TSMC’s two largest equipment suppliers.

“Just as the state was the location for much of the 300mm [12-inch] wafer transition’s development efforts, so too is New York State likely to the epicenter of 450mm wafer transition,” Primasia Investment wrote.

TSMC is among major semiconductor companies that are in the process of transforming 300mm wafer technology into 450mm technology in order to produce twice the number of chips.

In September, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office announced that members of the Global 450 Consortium — which includes Intel Corp, IBM Corp, TSMC, GlobalFoundries and Samsung Electronics Co — would invest more than US$4 billion over five years to create a hub for next-generation wafer technology in the upstate area and create 2,500 new high-tech jobs.

INCENTIVES NEEDED

Since the state government agreed to offer GlobalFoundries about US$1.4 billion in incentives to locate its new fab in New York, Primasia Investment said TSMC was likely to seek similar incentives from to make the potential investment economical.

While a plan to build a fab in New York state could show TSMC’s intention to diversify globally, Primasia Investment said in the note there would inevitably be “some tradeoffs — namely the strain on globe-trotting process engineers and the potential knock-on effects of the geometry migrations occurring back in Taiwan.”

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