Semiconductor market news(Mar. 20 to Mar. 26)丨Intel acknowledges Tower takeover delay; Prices of TDDI chips for mobile phones rise…

01. Intel acknowledges Tower takeover delay

Intel has given itself another quarter to try and close its deal to acquire specialty foundry Tower Semiconductor Ltd. (Migdal Haemek).

Intel announced a US$5.4 billion plan to acquire Tower at $53 per share, in mid-February 2022, saying it expected to close the deal within about 12 months, subject to regulatory approvals. It was widely seen as a good way for Intel to absorb some foundry know-how and business culture.

However, 13-months on and the deal appears to be stalled. It has been reported that China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), suspended the clock in its review of the transaction in January. It is reported that Intel and Tower had responded to the regulator’s questions by the end of January.

“While we continue to work to close the Tower transaction within the first quarter of 2023, the transaction may close in the first half of 2023, subject to certain regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions,” Intel reportedly said in a statement.

Intel has appointed Stuart Pann to lead Intel Foundry Services.

02. Baidu backs RISC-V startup for Chinese datacentre chip

Chinese cloud giant Baidu has invested in StarFive to develop a high performance computing (HPC) chip based on the RISC-V instruction set.

Competitors Alibaba and Tencent have both shown RISC-V HPC chips developed internally for their data centres, and StarFive has a partnership with Imagination Technologies in the UK for key AI accelerator IP.

Baidu said the investment was strategic but would not comment on the size of the deal. StarFive said it had so far raised $146.46 million.

StarFive is the Chinese arm of US RISC-V IP developer SiFive set up in 2018, but has since raised its own funding and has its own product roadmap that includes boards.

In January it launched its latest high performance single board computer (SBC), the VisionFive 2. This uses the StarFive 64bit, 1.5GHz RISC-V JH7110 chip with integrated Imagination GPU.

03. Prices of TDDI chips for mobile phones rise

Mar. 26, 2023, According to insiders in the supply chain, the price of the HD version of Touch and Display Driver Integration (TDDI) chips for mobile phones has unexpectedly increased due to tight supply and demand.

The source pointed out that since the beginning of March, the price of HD version TDDI chips for mobile phones has risen by 10%. This is the first price increase for IC design companies after inventory corrections since the second half of last year.

The insider pointed out that the price increase of TDDI chips is mainly due to the profit considerations of wafer foundries in mainland China, which transfer production capacity to other brands of products and the production of some power management ICs. The total supply of the HD version of TDDI for mobile phones has decreased, and short-term demand exceeds supply, resulting in price increases.

The source also revealed that the shortage of HD version TDDI will continue until April, and the price may return to normal when the production capacity and supply return to normal in May.

04. Vishay expands chip fab in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Mar. 24, 2023, According to reports, Vishay invested 370 million euros to start further expansion of its existing factory in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

Although production is not scheduled to start until 2026, the company is already looking for employees and will create around 150 jobs in total in the area around Hamburg.

Vishay plans to use the three-year period from 2023 to 2026 to cultivate technical talents while building the factory.

The investment will initially be used to build a completely new manufacturing facility. A new clean room will be built here to create capacity for the production of microchips.

Vishay's existing facility in the region was built in 1996 and it primarily produces 200mm wafers. The current expansion is aimed at producing 300mm wafers.

05. Murata announced joint venture company for the production of MLCC raw materials

Mar. 20, 2023, Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd. announced the resolution to enter into a joint venture agreement with Ishihara Sangyo Kaisha, Ltd. and Fuji Titanium Industry Co., Ltd. to establish a joint venture company MF material, Co., Ltd., to produce barium titanate used in multilayer ceramic capacitors and other products.

Barium titanate, a material used in multilayer ceramic capacitors, is becoming increasingly important in anticipation of further growth in demand for multilayer ceramic capacitors amidst the rapid development of IT devices and the electrification of automobiles.

The joint venture company has a plan to construct a new plant in Nobeoka City, Miyazaki Prefecture, for enhancing the production capacity of barium titanate and will seek to achieve further improvement in quality and productivity by combining the respective manufacturing technologies and know-how that Fuji Titanium and the Company have cultivated.

The joint venture company will be established whereby Fuji Titanium will execute a company split to separate main assets, liabilities, and other items related to the barium titanate manufacturing business, following whichFuji Titanium, Murata and Ishihara Sangyo will take a 55%, 35% and 10% stake, respectively.

06. Renesas announces acquisition of Panthronics

Mar. 23, 2023, Renesas Electronics Corporation recently announced its wholly owned subsidiary has entered into a definitive agreement with the shareholders of Panthronics AG, a fabless semiconductor company specializing in high-performance wireless products, under which Renesas will acquire Panthronics in an all-cash transaction. The acquisition will enrich Renesas’ portfolio of connectivity technology, extending its reach into high-demand Near-Field Communication (NFC) applications in fintech, IoT, asset tracking, wireless charging, and automotive applications.

NFC has emerged as a de facto standard in the digital economy and touches many aspects of daily life. Fintech, such as mobile point-of-sale (mPoS) terminals and contactless payment, IoT, asset tracking, and wireless charging are highlights of NFC’s increasing presence. Headquartered in Graz, Austria, Panthronics has been offering advanced NFC chipsets and software that are easy to apply, innovative, small-in-size, and highly efficient for payment, IoT, and NFC wireless charging. Renesas and Panthronics have been addressing the rising demand of NFC as partners since 2018. Acquiring Panthronics’ competitive NFC technology will provide Renesas with in-house capability to instantly capture growing and emerging market opportunities for NFC.

07. Magnachip is said to cut 5% jobs

Mar. 23, 2023, According to The Elec, in response to the weakness in the semiconductor industry, Magnachip has begun manpower restructuring, and 5% of its more than 900 employees will voluntarily retire.

The report quoted sources as saying that Magnachip is preparing to cut about 5% of its staff through voluntary retirement. There are also rumors that the company will be fully prepared for the sale by downsizing.

The report pointed out that Magnachip’s structural adjustment is in response to serious performance deterioration. Its annual revenue in 2022 was $337.7 million, a year-on-year decrease of 28.8%.

As the situation of the semiconductor industry continues to deteriorate, it is expected that Magnachip's performance in the first and second quarters of this year will hardly rebound.

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