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Comms chips

SK Seeking Japan JV; TSMC Debuts China Fab

SK is reported to be negotiating to form a joint venture with a Japanese semiconductor company. The report was published in the Korea Times, which said the Japanese partner has yet to be identified.

Separately, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) announced it intends to build a 300 mm wafer fab and a design service center in Nanjing, China.

The Korea Times also said SK is on the lookout for more merger/acquisition targets in the US and Japan.

SK has been growing through acquisition. The company got into the memory market with its 2011 investment in SK Hynix Semiconductor Inc. Upon solidifying Hynix's position as a top supplier of DRAMs, SK followed with a set of acquisitions last year (2014) that shored up its position in NAND memory. Those purchases included the firmware division of Softeq Development, Ideaflash, Link-A-Media Devices (LAMD), Violin Memory in the US and Innostor Technology.

Memories are still considered commodities, but top-of-category end products -- everything from smartphones to data center systems -- are dependent on the most advanced memory ICs available. DRAM and NAND suppliers have been jockeying furiously lately on both the technology and the supply fronts.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) (NYSE: TSM) said it wants to begin volume production of memories based on a 16nm process technology in the second half of 2018; planned capacity is 20,000 wafers per month.

In August, SK said it would invest almost $39 billion in manufacturing, with just less than a third of the total going to upgrade an existing fab to handle 300 mm wafers, and the balance to build two new fabs by 2024.

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and its ally Micron Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: MU) are betting on an entirely new technology approach that relies on 3D processing and some as yet unidentified semiconductor. In mid-October, Intel said it would invest $5.5 billion to upgrade a facility in Dalian, China, to handle its new memories.

Micron remains the subject of merger rumors. The most recent report has focused on a potential acquisition by SanDisk, but that all remains speculation at this point.

— Brian Santo, Senior Editor, Components, T&M, Light Reading

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