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UMC looking for R&D partner?

Posted: 10 May 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:foundry  R&D  UMC fab expansion 

The Taiwan foundry vendor United Microelectronics Corp. is playing its cards close to its chest. Analysts believe that UMC is gearing up for a new R&D partnership in an effort to play catch-up in the foundry market. UMC trails behind GlobalFoundries, TSMC and Samsung in process technology, it was noted.

UMC is boosting its fab expansion efforts and is planning a private placement of no more than 10 per cent of its total shares or about Rs.1,847.08 crore ($400 million).

"In general, it sounds like they are positioning for some kind of technology alliance/licensing. The Street may speculate a new relationship with IBM (similar to the IBM tech licences that SMIC, Chartered/GlobalFoundries and Samsung," said Steven Pelayo, an analyst with HSBC, in a report. "Alternatively, this could be related to a potential stronger relationship with a key customer like Texas Instruments."

At one time, there were rumours that UMC would join IBM Corp.'s "fab club," which includes IBM, GlobalFoundries and Samsung.

As reported earlier this year, Xilinx Inc. said it will use leading foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. as one of two foundry suppliers for its 28nm FPGAs, a major strategy shift that has been the subject of industry rumours and analyst speculation for weeks.

Xilinx said it is using TSMC and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd's foundry division to make 28nm parts. Xilinx's shift to TSMC is a bitter pill for rival foundry UMC, which has been a foundry supplier to Xilinx for more than a decade.

Meanwhile, UMC is speeding up its fab ramp. The company "will kick off official operations of the phase-three and phase-four production facilities at its 300mm Fab 12A at the Southern Taiwan Science Park on May 20, compared to the original schedule set for Q3," Pelayo said.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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