The company had been owned by STMicroelectronics, International Rectifier, and Infineon before becoming NWF in 2017.
Nexperia, a Dutch chip firm owned by China’s Wingtech Technology has confirmed its plans to acquire the Welsh and UK’s largest chipmaker, Newport Wafer Fab (NWF), according to a source close to the deal. The deal comes as Beijing looks to gain self-sufficiency in semiconductor manufacturing amid the current US sanctions, prohibiting Chinese companies from buying chips made with American technology.
A Nexperia spokesperson speaking with reporters stated that the firm is in constructive conversations with NWF and the welsh government and declined to comment any further until the reported £63 million ($87 million) takeover is concluded. Reports from sources close to the deal expect it to be announced as early as July 6.
The chief operations officer of Nexperia, Achim Kempe, in a statement revealed that the Newport facility is equipped with a very skilled operational team and has a crucial role to play to ensure continuity of operations. “We look forward to building a future together,” he stated. Nexperia stated that the acquisition will help the company make more chips and meet soaring demand. The Chinese-owned firm became NWF’s second-largest shareholder in 2019.
Founded in 1982 in Newport, Wales, to build a transputer, NWF produces silicon chips used in power supply applications for the auto industry, which has been hit by the global chip shortages since the start of the pandemic. The company is capable of making power and compound semiconductor ICs on 200mm-diameter wafers and has a capacity of 35,000 wafers a month. NWF had been owned by STMicroelectronics, International Rectifier, and Infineon before becoming NWF in 2017.
Reports suggest that there may be the opportunity for continued UK-owned production in an empty building on the campus. Should the rumors be true, former CEO and co-founder of Welsh wafer supplier IQE and outgoing chairman of Newport Wafer Fab, Drew Nelson, will reportedly make changes to the compound semiconductor part of NWF and could create a new venture and will be permitted to keep the Newport Wafer Fab name.
“The change in ownership of the Newport site marks an important step for the future of the facility as well as for the region. We are pleased that we can maintain the expertise in developing high-end silicon devices in the 200 mm wafer fab while at the same time opening up opportunities for us to add new semiconductor technologies,” Nelson stated.
The latest announcement has however been met with concerns and severe criticisms across the UK with many officials claiming that the UK is selling a prized asset to a Chinese-owned company at a time when there’s a global chip shortage that could run until 2023.
Leader of the U.K. government’s China Research Group and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat, expressed his displeasure with the latest news and added that he’s very surprised the take-over is not being reviewed under the National Security and Investment Act, which was introduced in April. “Having been in touch with partners in the US and around the world, I know I am not alone,” he stated.
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