Samsung Electronics is reportedly eyeing New York’s Tech Valley – and a buyout of GlobalFoundries upstate chip manufacturing operations – as part of a major expansion of the Korean company’s expanding semiconductor foundry business in the U.S.
Such an acquisition would propel Samsung into head-to-head competition with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (TSMC) for the lions share of next generation chip design-wins across the global electronics industry. It would also represent a major expansion of Samsung’s technology base in Tech Valley.
Speculation about Samsung’s interest in GlobalFoundries was fueled by reports of meetings and discussions in Seoul, South Korea earlier this week between Samsung officials and GlobalFoundries UAE owners.
According to a report in the Koreaherald “a second meeting between Samsung Electronics’ chief and the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates raised speculations Tuesday that the South Korean tech titan could take over ownership of the world’s third-biggest foundry business, GlobalFoundries.”
The report said that Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong greeted the UAE prince and took him on a tour of major sites, said to include fifth-generation network technology and Samsung’s semiconductor production facilities in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, in Seoul. Lee and Prince Mohammed also discussed cooperation between Samsung and UAE companies on 5G, semiconductors and artificial intelligence.
Lee and the crown prince may have had a discussion on U.S. foundry company GlobalFoundries, a second report noted, adding, “Samsung is seen as one of the candidates that can take over the foundry. They speculate that some business deals could be made between GlobalFoundries and Samsung.”
GlobalFoundries has about an 8 percent share of the global semiconductor foundry market. Post acquisition, Samsung’s market share would jump to around 23 percent, making it a strong competitive rival to TSMC, which holds over 50 percent market share.
ATIC, the investment arm of the UAE’s Abu Dhabi government, owns a 90 percent stake in GlobalFoundries, which has reportedly been on the sales block since last year. DigiTimes, a daily newspaper for semiconductor, electronics, computer and communications industries in Taiwan and the Greater China region, reported on Feb. 15 that GlobalFoundries may be sold after its downsizing that started last year.
Samsung is the largest semiconductor company in the world and the top maker of memory devices for digital products like mobile phones and computers. But growth in these markets is slowing, and so Samsung is aggressively looking at new opportunities in the foundry business.
Samsung would not be a newcomer to New York’s semiconductor-intensive Tech Valley, where it already has strong ties to IBM, which recently turned to Samsung to make 7 nanometer chips for its high-powered servers after GlobalFoundries decided not to enter the market for these next-generation chips.
IBM and Samsung are also extending a joint research activities on next-generation chips at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany where the two companies have been focusing on extreme ultra-violet lithography, or EUV. That’s the technology used to etch the smaller designs needed for 7 nanometer chips. Samsung will continue to have a long-term presence at SUNY Poly’s Albany campus where IBM has its own EUV machine in the school’s NanoFabX building.