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GlobalFoundries pours $1.4 billion into fab expansion amid chip demand boom

Alexandra Alper and Supantha Mukherjee
·2-min read

By Alexandra Alper and Supantha Mukherjee

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - GlobalFoundries will invest $1.4 billion this year to raise output at three factories in the United States, Singapore and Germany, as a global shortage of semiconductors has boosted demand for chips, its chief executive said.

The U.S.-based company, a unit of Abu Dhabi's state-owned fund Mubadala, may also bring forward its initial public offering to late 2021 or the first half of next year, from a previous target of late 2022 or early 2023.

It is aiming for revenue growth of 9% to 10% from just over $5.7 billion last year.

Automakers and electronics producers are facing a global shortage of chips which has fueled manufacturing delays.

"The adoption of technology that would normally have taken a decade happened in one year in 2020 because of COVID-19," GlobalFoundries CEO Thomas Caulfield told Reuters.

Before the pandemic, the chip industry was projected to grow 5% over a five-year horizon and now it has accelerated to grow at twice that rate, he said.

While the supply crunch has resulted in car makers such as Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors cutting output, an increase in supply would create further demand.

GlobalFoundries said the $1.4 billion, which will be divided evenly among its fabs in Dresden, Germany, Malta, New York and Singapore, will begin to ramp up output through 2022 to produce chips from 12 to 90 nanometers.

About a third of the investment will come from clients seeking to lock in supply over several years, Caulfield said, forecasting a 20% rise in production next year following an expected 13% increase in 2021.

If demand continues to rise GlobalFoundries could build a new plant adjacent to its Malta, New York, plant after securing a purchase option agreement for about 66 acres of undeveloped land last year.

But a decision to break ground there would hinge on the U.S. Congress funding a set of measures to incentivise chip manufacturing in the United States known as the Chips Act, which was approved last year.

"It's not a question of 'if,' it's just a question of 'when,'... And a key element of going forward will be the funding of the Chips Act," Caulfield said.

U.S. President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has pledged to support the effort, and senators are looking at providing emergency funding for the law as part of a bigger package to counter China's rise, as chipmaking has shifted to Asia.

GlobalFoundries is the world's third-largest foundry by revenue behind Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd but ranks second when factoring out the part of Samsung's foundry business that makes chips for other elements of the South Korean firm.

(Reoprting by Alexandra Alper in Washington and Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm; additional Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; editing by Jason Neely)