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U.S. chipmaker Micron ‘in talks’ to expand in Japan and Taiwan

  • October 21, 2021
  • , Nikkei Asia , 6:07 p.m.
  • English Press

CHENG TING-FANG and LAULY LI, Nikkei staff writers

 

TAIPEI — Top U.S. memory chipmaker Micron Technology is in talks with governments around the world, including in Japan, Taiwan and Europe, over expanding its manufacturing footprint as part of a $150 billion, 10-year investment plan, a senior executive told Nikkei Asia in an interview.

 

Manish Bhatia, executive vice president of Micron’s global operations, stressed however that his company’s global expansion push is aimed at keeping pace with growing demand and will not contribute to an oversupply in the memory chip market.

 

“On the future generations [of chip technology] we are in discussions with multiple governments in Japan, Taiwan, the U.S. and others about what we will do next,” Bhatia said. As part of those next steps, the company has not ruled out bringing the industry’s most cutting-edge technology — extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography equipment — to various facilities including in Japan, where it produces dynamic random access memory, he said.

 

EUV technology is seen as a key tool for pushing chip development forward, and only one company in the world — ASML of the Netherlands — is able to produce such equipment.

 

Bhatia said his company does not yet have any concrete investment plans for specific countries. Micron previously announced it will introduce EUV production technology to Taiwan — its biggest DRAM production hub — by 2024.

 

Micron already has manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Taiwan, Japan and Singapore, and it also operates chip packing facilities in China and Malaysia. Its most significant site for NAND flash memory is in Singapore. Both DRAM and flash memory chips are essential to smartphones, data centers, computers, cars and myriad other items. Currently, Micron does not have a manufacturing presence in Europe, but the senior executive said the company is also having conversations with governments in Europe as well.

 

Bhatia said that with major economies reviewing their semiconductor policies, Micron wants to highlight the importance of memory chips as a growing part of the semiconductor ecosystem. Most policy discussions are focused on processors, microcontrollers, image sensors and other types of logic chips, as opposed to memory chips.

 

The executive said Micron’s newly announced $150 billion plan is not all about capacity expansion but also includes a significant portion for research and development. Its goal is not to increase its own market share, he said, but to ensure Micron can expand along with the market.

“Our goal is to grow in line with the market demand and to have a richer set of products in our portfolio to grow our revenue share,” Bhatia said. “We are not looking to grow our bit share. … Obviously that’s not a responsible way for us to grow because that risks some of the industry conditions of oversupply. … Our focus is to be able to grow in line with the market trend.”

 

“Bit share” refers to the amount of memory produced and is an important metric for measuring demand.

 

Micron sees a compound annual bit growth for NAND flash memories of 30% over the longer term and DRAM growth “in high teens” for the long term, the executive said. The company’s expansion plan will fit that trend, he added, to avoid creating a supply-demand imbalance in the industry.

 

Bhatia said that while Micron recently lowered its business guidance, that applies only for the short term and demand for DRAM will stay strong once shortages of other components start to ease.

 

“This is not at the beginning of a downtrend right now,” the executive said, adding that Micron still expects record revenue and strong profitability for 2022.

 

On Wednesday, Micron unveiled it will invest $150 billion in chip manufacturing and research and development over the next decade. The announcement comes as the U.S., Europe, Japan and China race to boost their domestic chip supply chains amid an unprecedented global chip shortage.

 

Micron is the world’s third-largest DRAM chipmaker after Samsung and SK Hynix. It is the world’s fifth-largest flash memory chipmaker after Samsung, SK Hynix, Kioxia and Western Digital.

 

Just days before Micron announced its $150 billion plan, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest contract chipmaker, said it will build its first-ever chip plant in Japan, as part of the company’s global expansion push. TSMC also pledged to spend $100 billion through 2023 to help alleviate the global chip shortage. Japan’s government is expected to subsidize up to half the estimated 1 trillion yen ($8.8 billion) cost of the Japan project.

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