Since the end of 2020, almost all chip design companies have been rushing to find foundry resources and snap up production capacity. Some companies are selling their own fabs. For example, on March 29, Taiwan media reported that the memory company Macronix confirmed that it would sell its 6-inch wafer fab.
Wu Minqiu, chairman of Macronix, responded that the sale of the 6-inch wafer fab is ongoing, and the equipment and plant can be sold separately. If all goes well, there should be results in the second quarter of this year. It is said that there are already many foundries interested in buying.
Before Macronix, there was also a major storage company Micron Technology, which also announced the launch of the 3D XPoint project on the evening of March 16. As part of the exit plan, Micron Technology will close and sell its manufacturing plant in Utah. Production of memory chips based on XPoint technology. According to sources, ADI, NXP, STMicroelectronics and Infineon may be potential buyers.
Now that the foundry market is so hot and the production capacity is so hot, why did Macronix and Micron choose to sell their fabs?
The explanation provided by Macronix is that the company currently mainly focuses on 8-inch and 12-inch production lines, and the 6-inch factory’s revenue contribution is actually not large, and the profit is not high. Moreover, Macronix originally planned to retire the 6-inch factory at the end of 2020, but it has now been postponed until March 2021 to officially stop production.
Micron's reasons are also very straightforward. Other new technologies have shown better prospects, and 3D XPoint has not brought enough business. They believe that the technology has no value. Moreover, according to Micron Technology's estimates, the annual expenditure of the Utah chip factory due to insufficient operating rate is about 400 million US dollars. It is precisely because Micron is unwilling to pay this additional cost for this, that's why it wants to sell the factory.
There is another reason they didn't say. I'm afraid now is a good time. Due to the limitation of production capacity, the development of automobiles, mobile phones, and even some industrial industries have been greatly affected, and chip manufacturing resources are now hot.
Governments of various countries are also investing large sums of money in the chip manufacturing industry to support the expansion of chip production. Just a few days ago, the US government also proposed to invest 50 billion US dollars in the US semiconductor industry. China began to increase investment in the semiconductor industry a few years ago.
Selling the fab at this time is not only easier to sell, but also at a good price.
Of course, the company that takes over also needs to pay attention. From the formal takeover to mass production of its own chips, there is actually a lot of work to do and a lot of investment. For example, at Micron Technology's Utah plant, some analysts estimate that its equipment replacement cost will be as high as $3 billion. Of course, this is because Micron's factory is used to produce a special type of chip, and it cannot be easily modified to produce another type of chip.
Macronix’s situation may be better, but since Macronix’s profits are not high, if the company that takes over is still producing the same product, there will certainly not be much improvement, and there is only one way to upgrade. However, by upgrading and expanding production capacity, it will take at least two years from equipment procurement to actual mass production. Therefore, in a short period of time, it is difficult to improve the current supply situation.