TSMC could buy memory company

September 10, 2018 // By Peter Clarke
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. is not ruling out the possibility of buying a memory chip company, according to a Nikkei Asian Review article that quotes Mark Liu, recently-appointed chairman of the foundry.

TSMC has achieved great success as the semiconductor market de-aggregated and integrated device makers (IDMs) declined and the model moved towards fabless chip companies and their foundry suppliers. However, TSMC's problems are exemplified by its recent sales figures, which were down on a year ago because of slow down in its major market – smartphones (see TSMC's sales year awaits smartphone boost).

Liu was appointed as chairman after the retirement of founder Morris Chang earlier this year but almost immediately Liu has been hit by the problem of meeting Chang's bullish final forecast for the company. At the beginning of the year Chang said TSMC would achieve between 10 and 15 percent year-on-year revenue growth. For the first eight months of the year TSMC's growth stands at 5.8 percent.

Meanwhile the memory chip market has continued to be strong with Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron achieving sales growth for the first half of 2018 of 36, 56, and 45 percent respectively. It has been forecast that this DRAM undersupply boom could end soon. 

However a memory-logic partnership makes increasing sense as the functionality of leading-edge chips is increasingly calling for large amounts of memory, sometimes non-volatile memory, to be included on the same chip as the logic.

Liu did not identify potential acquisition targets in his interview with Nikkei.

Most of the large candidates that would significantly add to TSMC's sales revenue of $32 billion in 2017 are not available. While Micron, with annual sales of about $20 billion is a potential target it is likely that the United States would block any sale.

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