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GlobalFoundries building new fab in China but is bleeding a lot of cash

Posted on Monday, February 13 2017 @ 14:35:15 CET by

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On Saturday, GlobalFoundries and city officials from Chengdu, China broke ground on a new semiconductor fab that will see an investment of roughly $10 billion. At the same time, GlobalFoundries put its deal with the government of Chongqing on the back burner. This is not really a surprise, news about this deal falling through has been circulating for some months.

Exact financial details about the factory in Chengdu are confidential but GlobalFoundries will be the majority owner of the project. Production at the plant is expected to kick off in 2018, the first phase of operation will consist of 130/180nm production, which will be transferred from the foundry's Singapore operations. One year later, GlobalFoundries will bring in tools from Dresden to make 22nm FD-SOI chips. I'm not sure why they're doing this at a brand new fab, there's a pretty massive technological difference between these two nodes.

The news should be seen in the light of the race between Chinese federal and provincial officials to build up a domestic semiconductor industry. Besides GlobalFoundries, other major players like TSMC, UMC and SMIC are also building up foundry capacity in China. It's not hard to imagine that sometime in the near future, China will have its own leading-edge production capacity.

At the same time, GlobalFoundries also revealed plans to expand production at the following sites. Given the foundry's low utilization level, which is believed to be in the high 70 percent range, this should more be seen as an upgrade to newer technology rather than expansion of production capacity.
  • 14nm capacity 20 percent at its Fab 8 in New York
  • Overall capacity 40 percent in Dresden by 2020
  • 40nm capacity at its 300mm fab in Singapore by 35 percent
  • 180nm production on 200mm wafers in Singapore
  • Its capabilities in RF-SOI
  • But as EE Times reports, it's not all good news as GlobalFoundries is bleeding a lot of cash. Last year the privately-held GlobalFoundries made a loss of almost $2 billion on sales of just $5.5 billion. For comparison, TSMC made a profit of about $10 billion on sales of around $30 billion.
    “Currently, Globalfoundries is losing money and is working at low utilization levels, somewhere in the high 70% range,” [McClean of IC Insights] said. “They don't need a lot of capacity but some of their older capacity is unlikely to be able to produce the devices they need, so I think a lot of this expansion is really being driven by technology upgrades,” he said.

    The Abu Dhabi investment group backing the foundry from its creation as a spin out from AMD has “been very patient…and it looks like that patience will continue for at least another few years,” he added.
    GlobalFoundries also said 7nm production in New York is planned for Q2 2018.



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