Plan to re-open Rousset fab requires investors
Financial counsel working for a class action group that is suing Atmel Corp. (San Jose, Calif.) and LFoundry GmbH (Landshut, Germany) is developing the plan, according to Philippe Pradal of Pradal & Associates PLLC, who represents the plaintiffs in the suit (see Conspiracy alleged over Rousset fab closure). The group developing the plan is looking for financial investors that would be interested in investing in the Rousset site to relaunch activity there, Pradal said.
The recovery plan hinges on the involvement of General Vision Inc. (Petaluma, Calif.), a company led by French expatriate cognitive imaging and computing experts Guy Paillet and Anne Menendez, and which recently recruited Philippe Lambinet, formerly a corporate strategy officer at STMicroelectronics NV and general manager of ST’s digital sector.
Other companies referenced as "probable" users of a resurrected Rousset foundry in a document sent to eeNews Europe include Inside Secure SA and Adesto Technologies Inc.
General Vision, a developer of neuromorphic technology for such applications as image processing and search engines, was previously reported as being interested in the Rousset fab site at the time LFoundry Rousset SAS was declared bankrupt by the Commercial Court of Paris. That declaration caused an immediate stop to activities on the site from Dec. 26, 2013 and the loss of 613 jobs (see LFoundry Rousset fab closes with loss of 600 jobs).
The law suit, filed subsequently in federal court in New York in March 2014, alleges that Atmel conspired with LFoundry GmbH to sell its wafer fab in Rousset, fraudulently to LFoundry GmbH (Landshut, Germany) so that the plant could be closed and Atmel could avoid the cost of closing the fab, including making redundancy payments to workers. The suit now has a date for an initial pre-trial hearing on June 6, 2014.
The plaintiffs – essentially the workers made redundant by the Rousset closure – are looking for investors for the plan, which claims that, by working with customers that wish to produce chips in Europe, the business can be profitable in 2016.
The plan assumes that the foundry can use the 150nm and 110nm manufacturing processes, the so-called LF150 and LF110 processes, that were previously in production at Rousset although the right to use those processes might be contested. Alternatively an investor might be found that could provide an alternative manufacturing process.
Nonetheless, the plan forecasts sales ramping from €23 million (about $32 million) for the second half of 2014 to €93 million (about $128 million) in 2015 and €217 million (about $300 million) in 2016. The General Vision project is called NeuroMem Semiconductors and is shown making up more than half the foundry’s sales in 2016.
In addition, the plan predicts a general increase of Rousset wafer production from 1,100 wafers out per week, in the second half of 2014 to 5,300 wafers out per week in 2016, including 1,500 wafers out per week of production outsourced to an integrated device manufacturer.
To re-open the fab would require 350 people initially – including 70 executives –with about 220 direct employees, 90 contract workers and 40 people employed in production support, the plans says. An additional 90 people would be required for every 1,000 wafers of weekly output, the plan states. The plan could therefore – if successful – get the fab’s staff numbers back to the order of 600 jobs by 2016.
Guy Paillet, chairman and CEO, of General Vision, said in email correspondence with eeNews Europe: "General Vision and partners are interested in helping to rescue the employment and keeping/developing this foundry in Rousset. There is no doubt – in IBM’s and Qualcomm’s minds among others – that cognitive computing using neuromorphic silicon is the next wave of computing. Today search/recognize operations are the majority of computer activity and they are inefficiently performed by standard Von Neumann architectures."
Paillet concluded: "We are certainly looking forward to partnering with the former employees of LFoundry in turning this debacle into a great success at the forefront of cognitive sensing and cognitive computing, especially with the seasoned leadership that has joined the group."
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