US Said to Consider Crackdown on Chinese Memory Chip Manufacturers: All Details
By Reuters | Updated: 1 August 2022
The United States is considering limiting shipments of American chipmaking equipment to memory chip makers in China including Yangtze Memory Technologies Company Limited (YMTC), according to four people familiar with the matter, part of a bid to halt China’s semiconductor sector advances and protect US companies.
If President Joe Biden’s administration proceeds with the move, it could also hurt South Korean memory chip juggernauts Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Samsung has two big factories in China while SK Hynix is buying Intel’s NAND flash memory chips manufacturing business in China.
The crackdown, if approved, would involve barring the shipment of US chipmaking equipment to factories in China that manufacture advanced NAND chips.
It would mark the first US bid through export controls to target Chinese production of memory chips without specialized military applications, representing a more expansive view of American national security, according to export control experts.
The move also would seek to protect the only US memory chip producers, Western Digital and Micron Technology, which together represent about a quarter of the NAND chips market.
NAND chips store data in devices such as smartphones and personal computers and at data centres for the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google. How many gigabytes of data a phone or laptop can hold is determined by how many NAND chips it includes and how advanced they are.
Under the action being considered, US officials would ban the export of tools to China used to make NAND chips with more than 128 layers, according to two of the sources. LAM Research Corp and Applied Materials, both based in Silicon Valley, are the primary suppliers of such tools.
All the sources described the administration’s consideration of the matter as in the early stages, with no proposed regulations yet drafted.
Asked to comment on the possible move, a spokesperson for the Commerce Department, which oversees export controls, did not discuss potential restrictions but noted that “the Biden administration is focused on impairing (China’s) efforts to manufacture advanced semiconductors to address significant national security risks to the United States.”
YMTC, founded in 2016, is a rising power in manufacturing NAND chips. Micron and Western Digital are under pressure from YMTC’s low prices, as the White House wrote in a June 2021 report. YMTC’s expansion and low-price offerings present “a direct threat” to Micron and Western Digital, that report said. The report described YMTC as China’s “national champion” and the recipient of some $24 billion in Chinese subsidies.
YMTC, already under investigation by the Commerce Department over whether it violated US export controls by selling chips to Chinese telecoms company Huawei, is in talks with Apple Inc to supply the top US smartphone maker with flash memory chips, according to a Bloomberg report.
LAM Research Corp, SK Hynix and Micron declined comment on the US policy. Samsung, Applied Materials Inc, YMTC and Western Digital Corp did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Tensions between China and the United States over the tech sector deepened under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump and have continued since. Reuters reported on July 8 that Biden’s administration is also considering restrictions on shipments to China of tools to make advanced logic chips, seeking to hamstring China’s largest chipmaker, SMIC.
The US Congress last week approved legislation aimed at helping the United States compete with China by investing billions of dollars in domestic chip production.
Chipmakers that take money under the measure would be prohibited from building or expanding manufacturing for certain advanced chips, including advanced memory chips at a level to be determined by the administration, in countries including China.
According to Walt Coon of the consulting firm Yole Intelligence, YMTC accounts for about 5 percent of worldwide NAND flash memory chip production, almost double from a year ago. Western Digital stands at about 13 percent and Micron 11 percent. Coon said YMTC would be greatly hurt by restrictions like those that Biden’s administration is contemplating.
“If they were stuck at 128, I don’t know how they would really have a path forward,” Coon said.
Production of NAND chips in China has grown to more than 23 percent of the worldwide total this year from under 14 percent in 2019, while production in the United States has decreased from 2.3 percent to 1.6 percent over the same period, Yole data showed. For American companies, nearly all of their chip production is done overseas.
It was unclear what impact the potential restrictions might have on other players in China. Intel, which retains a contract to manage operations in the factory it is selling to SK Hynix in China, is already producing memory chips with 144 layers at the Chinese site, according to an Intel press release.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Foxconn-Vedanta to Open India’s First Semiconductor Facility in Dholera
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 21 February 2023
A joint venture of Indian conglomerate Vedanta and electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn has finalised the Dholera Special Investment Region near Ahmedabad city of Gujarat for setting up their semiconductor and display manufacturing facility, a senior state government official said on Monday.
In the biggest ever corporate investment in the history of independent India, a joint venture of Vedanta and Foxconn in September last year signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Gujarat government to invest Rs. 1,54,000 crore to set up the plant in the state. This will be the first manufacturing facility for semiconductors in India.
At that time, the joint venture company had not disclosed the exact location of the facility.
“After a detailed site analysis in consultation with Gujarat government authorities, the joint venture entity of Vedanta and Foxconn has selected Dholera SIR for setting up their semiconductor and display manufacturing facility. The project is in the advanced stage of evaluation by the government of India,” the official said.
The MoU was signed in September last year in Gandhinagar in the presence of Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology, Ashwini Vaishnaw.
Both the companies would invest Rs. 1,54,000 crore to set up the facility in Gujarat, which would create one lakh job opportunities, Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel had said on the occasion. Patel had also said his government will provide cooperation to set up the facility and to make it a success.
Notably, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a poll rally in Bhavnagar in November ahead of the Assembly polls, had given clear indication that the mega semiconductor plant will come up at Dholera SIR, nearly 100 km from Ahmedabad.
This project is likely to get huge subsidies and incentives, like zero stamp duty on land purchase and subsidised water and electricity, under the ‘Gujarat Semiconductor Policy 2022-27’ announced by the state government in July last year.
Gujarat became the first state in the country to have such a dedicated policy for the semiconductor and display fabrication sector, a government official earlier said.
Under this policy, eligible projects will be given 75 percent subsidy on the purchase of the first 200 acres of land for setting up manufacturing units. The eligible projects will be provided good quality water at the rate of Rs. 12 per cubic metre for the first five years.
To encourage investors under the policy, the state government has also announced to reimburse 100 percent of stamp duty which investors would pay for the first time for taking land on lease, sale or on land transfer.
Intel Fears Another EU Antitrust Fine Despite Winning Its Court Fight Last Year
By Reuters | Updated: 4 February 2023
Intel could face yet another EU antitrust fine despite winning its court fight last year against an EUR 1.06 billion (nearly Rs. 14,250 crore) penalty imposed 14 years ago for hindering a rival, the US chipmaker said in a regulatory filing.
Intel last year convinced Europe’s second-top court to scrap the fine handed out by the European Commission in 2009 for giving rebates to four computer makers to buy most of their chips from the company and not from rival Advanced Micro Devices.
“The General Court’s January 2022 decision did not annul the EC’s 2009 finding that Intel made payments to prevent sales of specific rival products, and in January 2023 the EC reopened its administrative procedure to determine a fine against Intel based on that alleged conduct,” the company said in a January 26 filing.
“Given the procedural posture and the nature of this proceeding, we are unable to make a reasonable estimate of the potential loss or range of losses, if any, that might arise from this matter,” it said.
Companies risk fines up to 10 percent of their global turnover for EU antitrust breaches.
Recently, Intel announced broad cuts to employee and executive pay after posting a lower-than-expected sales forecast driven by a loss of market share to rivals and a PC market downturn. The base pay of mid-level employees will be cut by 5 percent, whereas Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger will take a 25 percent salary cut. However, the company mentioned that there will be no salary cut on the company’s hourly workforce’s pay, said a person familiar with the matter who was not authorised to speak publicly.
Intel spokesperson Addy Burr said in a statement that the “changes are designed to impact our executive population more significantly and will help support the investments and overall workforce.”
© Thomson Reuters 2023
TSMC Defies Broader Industry Downturn, Posts 78 Percent Rise in Q4 Net Profit: All Details
By Reuters | Updated: 12 January 2023
Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC posted a 78 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit on Thursday, posting yet another quarterly record, as strong sales of advanced chips helped it defy a broader industry downturn that battered cheaper commodity chips.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chipmaker and a major Apple supplier, saw net profit for October-December hit a record TWD 295.9 billion (roughly Rs.79,285 crore) from TWD 166.2 billion (roughly Rs. 44,540 crore) a year earlier.
That compared with the TWD 289.44 billion (roughly Rs. 77,570 crore) average of 21 analyst estimates compiled by Refinitiv.
TSMC’s business has been boosted by a global chip shortage sparked by pandemic-fuelled sales of smartphones and laptops. While the shortage has eased, analysts said dominance in making some of the world’s most advanced chips has kept the firm’s order book full.
Revenue for the quarter climbed 26.7 percent to $19.93 billion (roughly Rs. 5,340 crore), versus TSMC’s prior estimated range of $19.9 billion to $20.7 billion (roughly Rs. 5,545 crore).
TSMC’s share price fell 27.1 percent in 2022, but is up 8.5 percent so far this year giving the firm a market value of $412.78 billion (roughly Rs. 33,66,055 crore). The stock rose 0.4 percent on Thursday versus a 0.1 percent fall for the benchmark index.
Overall, the chip sector has been grappling with weak demand for gadgets such as smartphones as inflation accelerates and interest rates rise, against a backdrop of geopolitical tension.
In October, TSMC cut its annual investment budget by at least 10 percent for 2022 and struck a more cautious note than usual on upcoming demand, flagging challenges from rising inflationary costs and predicting a chip downturn for 2023.
The firm said it spent $36.29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,95,940 crore) on capital expenditure in 2022, compared to a previous forecast of around $36 billon.
TSMC, Asia’s most-valuable listed firm, whose clients include chip majors such as Qualcomm, has repeatedly said business would continue to be boosted by a “mega-trend” in the industry, brought by demand for high-performance computing chips for 5G networks and data centres, as well as increased use of chips in gadgets and vehicles.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 Ti Specifications Accidentally Leaked Ahead of Launch: Report
By ANI | Updated: 2 January 2023
Nvidia has been tipped to release its “unlaunched” 12GB Nvidia RTX 4080 graphics card as the RTX 4070 Ti, and a new leak has given enthusiasts an idea of what to expect from the company’s graphics card. According to a report, the company briefly posted the specifications for its upcoming RTX 4070 Ti GPU on its website. The company removed the page, but a Twitter user was able to capture a screenshot before it was taken down.
According to a report by The Verge, before Nvidia pulled the page down, Twitter user @momomo_us was able to capture a screenshot, which was shared to the microblogging platform. So far, the leaked specifications match those of the 12GB RTX 4080, with 7,680 CUDA cores, a 2.61GHz boost clock, and 12GB of memory.
GeForce RTX 4070 Ti
Coming Month XXhttps://t.co/Z6Hv1Vv7ol pic.twitter.com/7sudSwgsFZ— 188号 (@momomo_us) December 30, 2022
Additionally, it claims that the GPU is capable of supporting 4K video at up to 240Hz and 8K at 60Hz with DSC and HDR, as per the report.
A chart included shows that the RTX 4070 Ti might outperform the RTX 3080 by almost 3.5 times when playing Cyberpunk 2077 in the game’s new Ray-Tracing: Overdrive mode.
In October, Nvidia faced criticism over its decision to launch the 12GB RTX 4080 GPU under the RTX 4080 moniker because of how much it differs from its much more powerful 16GB counterpart. It led Nvidia to cancel its launch altogether and plan a way to repackage the chip.
According to the report, pricing for the RTX 4070 Ti hasn’t yet been confirmed, but some rumours indicate that it will be cheaper than the $899 (roughly Rs. 74,200) 12GB RTX 4080. Nvidia is expected to launch the GPU at CES in January.
Intel Splits Graphics Chip Unit Into Two, Consumer Graphics Division to Join Client Computing Group
By Reuters | Updated: 22 December 2022
Intel is splitting its graphic chips unit into two, the company said on Wednesday, as it realigns the business to better compete with Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices.
The consumer graphics unit will be combined with Intel’s client computing group, which makes chips for personal computers, while accelerated computing teams will join its data centre and artificial intelligence (AI) business, the company said.
The move comes as Intel doubles down on accelerated computing, a growing segment dominated by Nvidia as AI use surges.
“I don’t think it changes much (if anything) other than aligning the products with the respective sales organizations they fit with vs. having them as a discrete segment,” Wedbush Securities analyst Matthew Bryson said.
Raja Koduri, who led the graphic chips unit, will return to his role as chief architect and oversee the company’s long-term technology and chip design strategy.
Koduri, who has led graphics technology ventures at iPhone maker Apple and AMD, joined Intel in 2017.
Earlier this month, it was reported that Intel had backed away from its original target of opening a chip factory in the eastern German city of Magdeburg in the first half of 2023. Regional newspaper Volksstimme reported that the semiconductor giant wanted more public subsidies.
The plant is central to German and European Union plans to strengthen the continent’s resilience by doing more manufacturing locally after the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlighted the risks of long, globe-spanning supply chains.
But the newspaper said that surging energy and raw materials prices had upset the US company’s original calculations. Where Intel had originally budgeted for costs of EUR 17 billion (USD 18 billion, roughly Rs 1,48,000 crore), prices were now closer to EUR 20 billion (roughly Rs 1,76,000 crore), the paper said.
China’s SMIC Ramps Up Production of Decade-Old 28nm Chips, US Lawmakers Raise Concerns
By Reuters | Updated: 14 December 2022 11:01 IST
China’s largest chip maker SMIC is ramping up production of a decade-old chip technology, key to many industries’ supply chains, setting off alarm bells in the United States and prompting some lawmakers to try to stop them.
The United States and allied nations could further step up restrictions if China announces a $144 billion support package for its chip industry, as Reuters exclusively reported on Tuesday, said TechInsights’ chip economist Dan Hutcheson.
Starting with the Trump administration, the United States has been tightening the noose around China’s high-tech ambitions. It cut off the world’s largest telecommunications firm Huawei Technologies from the US market and technologies, as well as cut off air supply to China’s advanced chip making through a series of rules this year.
But why worry about older chip technology?
China, which in 2020 had 9 percent of the global chip market, has a track record of dominating key technologies by flooding the market with cheaper products and wiping out global competition, say China watchers.
They did it with solar panels and 5G telecom equipment, and could do it with older technology chips, said Matt Pottinger, former Deputy National Security Advisor of the United States during the Trump administration who has been studying chip policy at the Hoover Institution.
“It would give Beijing coercive leverage over every country and industry — military or civilian — that depend on 28-nanometer chips, and that’s a big, big chunk of the chip universe,” he said.
“28 nanometer” refers to a chip technology commercially used since 2011. It is still widely used in automotive, weapons and the explosive category of internet of things gadgets, said Hutcheson.
Hutcheson, who has been monitoring chip production capacity for four decades, said the concern is that Semiconductor Manufacturing International and other chipmakers in China could use government subsidies to sell chips at a low price. And a possible new round of financial support from Beijing would increase chip production even further.
“The Chinese could just flood the market with these technologies,” he said. “Normal companies can’t compete, because they can’t make money at those levels.”
US Lawmakers pushing against SMIC
Those concerns have pushed some lawmakers to use legislation for setting the defence budget hold back SMIC.
While the measure is weaker than what was initially proposed, this week US Senators are expected to pass the annual National Defense Authorization Act 2023 that includes a section barring the US government from using chips from SMIC and two other Chinese memory chip makers. It is not clear what impact the restriction, which kicks in five years after it becomes law, will have on SMIC.
Founded in 2000 with backing from Beijing, SMIC has long struggled to break into the ranks of the world’s leading chip manufacturers.
But it is a giant in older technology, including chips that regulate power flows in electronics. And its revenue was close to $2 billion in the third quarter this year, roughly double the same period last year on the back of the global chip shortage.
SMIC filing supply gasp
With U.S. export controls making it impossible to produce advanced chips, SMIC is doubling down on mature technology chips and has announced four new facilities, or fabs, since 2020. When those come online, it would more than triple the company’s output, estimates Samuel Wang, Gartner chip analyst. He said there is a huge ramp up in new chip fabs across China.
“All this will start to have an impact from early 2024 and will be full blown by 2027,” said Wang, adding the chip supply increase will put downward pressure on chip prices.
The importance of older chip technology hit the industry in the face in 2021 as a shortage of those chips prevented manufacturing of millions of cars and consumer electronics.
Mark Li, Bernstein Research’s chip analyst in Asia, said the company is becoming a formidable competitor to Taiwan’s UMC Microelectronics and US-headquartered GlobalFoundries.
“SMIC has been much more willing to add capacity than other fabs at the low-end, and especially in this shortage we’ve seen in the past two years,” he says. “It’s not an issue now…but who knows, maybe in a few years there will be another shortage and capacity will be a big problem.”
© Thomson Reuters 2022
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