ST mulls capex expansion – and next 300mm wafer fab

May 14, 2017 //By Peter Clarke
European chip company STMicroelectronics NV (Grenoble, France), which is already planning to spend between $1 billion and $1.1 billion on capital expenditure in 2017, is considering going even higher.

The company disclosed this without being precise about the degree of uplift during an analysts' day held in London on Thursday May 11. Carlo Bozotti, CEO of ST, also told the analysts that there was an opportunity upgrade the original 200mm wafer fab at Crolles to 300mm wafer processing.

Carlo Ferro, chief financial officer, gave the news that the capex plan for 2017 – to spend up to $1.1 billion up from about $600 million in 2016 – was under review with a possible increase to support higher demand than previously anticipated in 2H17, and beyond. However, both Bozotti and Ferro stressed that ST's capex-to-sales ratio would be kept below 10 percent on average over the course of a multi-year economic cycle.

ST announced the 2017 capex expansion at the beginning of 2017 as part of its fourth quarter 2016 financial results saying it was needed to support a "major product ramp" in the second half of the year (see ST raises capex for "major product ramp" ). Many observers have taken that to mean ST has grabbed a significant design win in Apple mobile phone introductions expected in September and/or October (see Could ST ToF sensor lead to Apple 3D camera? ).

ST stressed at the analysts' day that it was demand for a number of its products that has driven its strong revenue expectations for 2H17 and the need for increased capex. Ferro said the capex plan was under review because that strength was broadening and more product categories were now also looking stronger.

In the question and answer session at the end of a morning of presentations CEO Bozotti was asked about ST's plans for its next 300mm wafer fab. Bozotti, who is due to step down as CEO at the end of June 2018 (see ST appoints Bozotti CEO for one more year ), did not dismiss the idea. Bozotti said: "Getting Crolles to 5,000 wafers