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SMIC revives plan to sell strategic stake

26 марта 2008

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, China’s biggest contract chipmaker, has revived plans to sell a strategic stake to outside investors.

The Shanghai-based company hired Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank last March to help sell a 20 per cent stake for an expected $500m. Even though it attracted avid interest from private equity firms, the process stalled by August last year because SMIC’s board was undecided about how to proceed, said people close to the process.

SMIC, which has been quiet about its plans since, announced Tuesday it was “in relatively advanced negotiations with a strategic investor”. The unnamed investor could acquire a “significant stake” through shares or convertible instruments, SMIC said. The chipmaker would not be drawn on which banks it had now appointed as advisers and declined further comment.

The news sent SMIC’s shares surging by 16.5 per cent in Hong Kong Tuesday to close at HK$0.53. That rise tempered a slide from its listing price of HK$2.69 three years ago. In the past year, the shares have fallen by more than 50 per cent.

The semiconductor industry has been hammered in past years by continued low prices for the commoditised dynamic random access memory, or Dram, chips, which have pushed chipmakers to expand into more sophisticated products. SMIC posted losses in both 2005 and 2006 because of low Dram prices combined with high depreciation costs.

To remedy that, SMIC said this year it had cut its Dram shipments by a fifth in 2007, and expected Dram to account for no more than 20 per cent of total revenue this year. SMIC has also licensed more advanced 45nm technology from IBM to help it produce high-end logic memory chips.

SMIC is in danger of losing some of its edge over its Taiwan peers after the Kuomintang victory in the island’s presidential election. The company, founded in mainland China by Taiwanese engineers, was not subject to the politically inspired curbs to investment on the mainland imposed on its peers that might now be eased by the Kuomintang.

Any relaxation would be a boon to Taiwan’s contract chipmakers as mainland Chinese chip design companies are fast catching up on their world peers.

SMIC’s data showed chip design revenues in China having risen from $29m in 2000 to $2.5bn last year and Richard Chang, the chief executive, has predicted even faster growth in coming years.

Источник: Financial Times

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