“As the world is no longer placid, TSMC is gaining a vital position with strategic importance,” Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang (張忠謀) told TSMC employees at the company’s annual sports event in November 2019. Leadership in technology, manufacturing excellence and customer trust are the key factors to safeguard TSMC’s competitive edge, Chang said.
Chang’s words have been proven true, as the Japanese government is eager to convince TSMC to set up advanced manufacturing facilities there, with the aim of rejuvenating Japan’s lagging chip industry and fending off competition from China.
TSMC was the first foundry to offer 5-nanometer technology, and is also to become the first to offer 3-nanometer technology when it becomes available next year.
Dashing Tokyo’s hopes, TSMC on Thursday last week said that it is evaluating the feasibility of setting up an advanced material development center in Japan, not an advanced manufacturing fab like the one it plans to build in the US.
Washington last year convinced TSMC to build a US$12 billion plant in the US to produce advanced chips, as semiconductors are becoming vital to national security amid the technology race with China. TSMC plans to begin construction of the fab in Arizona this year and produce 5-nanometer chips there starting in 2024.
The financing for the US fab is included in TSMC’s record-high capital expenditure budget of US$28 billion for this year, the chipmaker said.
The US has blocked China’s access to advanced semiconductor technology by blacklisting a series of Chinese firms — including Huawei Technologies Inc and Xiaomi Corp, as well as 60 firms linked to the People’s Liberation Army — and through TSMC has obtained local semiconductor capacity without risking national security.
TSMC plays a vital role in the semiconductor industry’s supply chain, primarily due to its technological leadership. Its long-term goal used to be to catch up with chip giant Intel Corp in developing next-generation technologies. TSMC has completed that mission and last year surpassed Intel by offering 5-nanometer chips.
TSMC is reportedly to receive orders from Intel to make new central processing units in the second half of this year, beating Samsung Electronics Co to the punch.
TSMC’s other key clients include Apple Inc, AMD Inc and Nvidia Inc. The company said that its huge capital expenditure budget would help satisfy demand from these three, as 5G smartphones and high-performance computing applications are gaining traction.
Investors have approved TSMC’s growth strategy of expanding investment in cutting-edge technologies.
TSMC’s share price jumped 1 percent to NT$607 yesterday, taking the company’s market value to NT$15.74 trillion (US$552.47 billion). It overtook Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s market value of US$547.36 billion, enabling it to secure the No. 10 spot among the world’s top 10 most valuable firms. Over the past year, TSMC’s share price has soared more than 82 percent, helping the TAIEX to gain 29 percent. No wonder TSMC is nicknamed “a sacred mountain” by local investors.
TSMC is not the only Taiwanese company that is making a big impact on the world’s supply chains. Another is 5G mobile phone chipmaker MediaTek Inc, which has overtaken rival Qualcomm Inc to become the world’s largest supplier of handset chips. Other local manufacturers are also showing their strength in offering advanced technologies and quality products during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to Taiwan’s containment of the disease.
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