Samsung seeks global lead in logic chips with $157b plan

Samsung Electronics's semiconductor production facility in Hwaseong, south of Seoul. The company said it plans to ramp up investment in semiconductors in the years leading up to 2030 to take the lead in the business of making advanced chip processors
Samsung Electronics's semiconductor production facility in Hwaseong, south of Seoul. The company said it plans to ramp up investment in semiconductors in the years leading up to 2030 to take the lead in the business of making advanced chip processors.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL • Samsung Electronics intends to invest 133 trillion won (S$157 billion) over the next decade or so to take on Intel and Qualcomm in the business of making advanced chip processors, quickening an effort to take greater control of the global semiconductor industry.

Samsung, which leads the market for the memory chips used in devices from servers to smartphones, said it plans to ramp up investment in semiconductors in the years leading up to 2030 to take the lead in so-called logic chips.

It aims to create 15,000 production and research jobs over that period to become the world leader in a field dominated by its US rivals.

Shares in chipmaking-gear providers such as Signetics and Alpha Holdings rose in Seoul.

Samsung, which is also looking to challenge Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing in the business of making chips for other corporations, joins companies from Huawei Technologies to Apple that are increasingly devising the brains that power computing devices.

The Korean company has profited by designing its own microprocessors for devices such as Galaxy phones, but Intel has a commanding lead in the market for central processing units used in PCs and servers.

"It's rare for Samsung to detail such a long-term plan," said Korea Investment and Securities analyst Yoo Jong-woo. "It's an expression of Samsung's commitment in a chip business that includes not only Intel but also a variety of chipmakers, such as in mobile processors."

The company may in part be trying to keep up with its main rivals. TSMC, for instance, has earmarked US$10 billion (S$13.6 billion) to US$11 billion of spending for this year.

The global market for non-memory chips rose to US$290 billion in 2017, according to Gartner, compared with US$130 billion for memory chips.

Samsung spent 23.7 trillion won on semiconductor equipment last year, expanding capacity to cater to a surge in demand from makers of artificial intelligence, automotive technologies and the Internet of Things. But slower orders from data centre owners such as Amazon.com and handset makers, including Apple, have pushed down prices for both Dram and Nand memory in recent months.

Samsung said in preliminary results that its operating profit for the March quarter fell 60 per cent to about 6.2 trillion won, the worst decline in more than four years.

Worries over the durability of Samsung's first foldable smartphone add to concerns surrounding the company's longer-term growth. Samsung has indefinitely postponed tomorrow's planned launch of the highly touted Galaxy Fold to run more tests on the product.

Samsung's main targets would likely be companies like foundry operator TSMC and mobile chipmaker Qualcomm as dethroning Intel in computer microprocessors would be close to impossible for now, said Mr Ahn Ki-hyun, a director at Korea Semiconductor Industry Association.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2019, with the headline 'Samsung seeks global lead in logic chips with $157b plan'. Print Edition | Subscribe