SK Hynix caught up in US-China geopolitics
SK Hynix plans call for the introduction of a manufacturing process close to 10nm at its wafer fab in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China, which would require the installation of EUV lithography equipment from ASML Holding NV (Veldhoven, The Netherlands).
The US government has previously engaged with ASML to prevent the delivery of EUV lithography tools to a Chinese customer (see US lobbied hard to deny China EUV lithography). It has now done so again with SK Hynix. On a visit to Seoul, US trade representative Katherine Tai said that the recent restriction on SK Hynix’s plan to bring EUV lithography equipment into China was made out of “legitimate concerns,” and that more such moves could be possible, according to The Korea Herald.
“I am aware that the technology in question is highly sensitive, and that there are legitimate concerns about the risks to national security in terms of where this technology ends up,” the report quoted Tai saying.
The fact that this may hamper SK Hynix may not overly concern the US as it has a domestic DRAM manufacturer – Micron Technology Inc. – that is ready to benefit. However, the semiconductor ecosystem is interconnected in myriad ways. It is not certain whether SK Hynix’s inability to ramp advanced DRAM manufacturing in China will have an adverse effect on a proposed deal for it to acquire Intel’ non-volatile memory business (see Intel sells NAND memory business to SK Hynix).
An SK Hynix spokesperson said the company is working with the Chinese government to try and achieve approval of the deal. The deal was agreed in October 2020 but subject to approval. So far SK Hynix has obtained approval from antitrust regulators in the US and other countries but has yet to receive the green light from China. Without that agreement the deal could collapse.
In 2017 and 2018 Qualcomm had a deal to acquire NXP Semiconductors but China did not provide approval and eventually the deal was abandoned (see NXP acquisition by Qualcomm about to collapse).
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