The chipmaker is involved in the trade war between the US and China
The South Korean semiconductor group Magnachip did not want to cancel the planned 1.4 billion. The US dollar has merged with China’s smart street capital.
Prior to last December’s decision, MagnaChip had no manufacturing, research and development, or sales operations in the United States other than the New York Stock Exchange and its registered office in Delaware. But that didn’t stop the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) from intervening in the merger.
“CFIUS typically intervenes in important security issues like ports or infrastructure, but it was surprising that they defended a relatively small company like Magnachip from the takeover,” said Chris Miller, associate professor at Tufts University. “I think this is a very important sign for the entire semiconductor industry.”
Magnachip is seen as an example of how tensions between the US and China are affecting chipmakers. They seem compelled to agree with the US if they want to challenge China’s emerging technological powerhouse.
US President Joe Biden signed the $280 billion CHIPS and SCIENCE Act in early August. A package of US dollars for semiconductor production and research, including US$52.7 billion. Companies around the world are trying to move some of their factories back to the US while considering investment decisions in China.
Earlier this month it was reported that two South Korean companies, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, were reviewing their investments in China. One reason is to meet US requirements in CHIPS and the Scientific Act. Companies seeking Chinese financing must commit by law not to expand chip production in China.
Other big companies that manufacture in China, like Taiwan’s TSMC or America’s Intel and Micron, are under similar pressure. According to experts, the pressure will increase in the near future when the combination of the Fab4 chip will be created. It is an organization of US partners, including South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, established to coordinate research and development, subsidies and future semiconductor supply chain policy.
Historically, Korean chipmakers have been key agents towards the global semiconductor industry. They also don’t want to be left out in the recent technological competition between the US and China. In addition to buying and selling in the Chinese market, Samsung and SK Hynix have also increased their investments in American manufacturing facilities. The country exported 50 billion worth of chips to China last year, according to the Korea International Trade Association.
However, like other semiconductor companies in the world, Korean companies still have to rely on American technology, especially advanced chip manufacturing technology. According to Miller, this is a “bottleneck in the semiconductor manufacturing process”.
“China has the market, but America has the technology. If you don’t have technology, you don’t have a product. And if you don’t have a market, you can at least find a way to find different options. commented Yeo Han-koo. Former Korean Minister of Commerce.
Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix are two companies that specialize in manufacturing memory chips, but neither makes cutting-edge semiconductor chips in China. Meanwhile, China’s largest chipmaker SMIC has announced that it will introduce its most advanced 7nm chip. Without the use of US technology, SMIC will struggle to close the gap with Samsung and TSMC, which still have 4nm and 3nm products, analysts said.
A senior TSMC official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the new US law is unlikely to have a major impact on the company as it previously faced restrictions on manufacturing advanced chips in China. But according to SemiAnalysis analyst Dylan Patel, the CHIPS and SCIENCE Act, which aims to prevent chip manufacturing in China from continuing or expanding with US technology, will still have some impact. “Companies like SK Hynix and Samsung can only maintain the current supply and investment activity. Therefore, their production share in China could decline significantly over time,” he said.
Chipmakers would do well to follow the spirit of the CHIPS and SCIENCE Act, not just the letter of the law, said David Hanke, an attorney with the Washington-based law firm Arendt Fox Schiff. He believes that at least after November’s midterm elections, these companies will try to buy time to wait for new US government action.
Bao Lam (Consequences FT)