The Korea Herald


Will Samsung’s $17b US investment be enough to survive chip race?

By Song Su-hyun

Published : May 17, 2021 - 17:05

    • Link copied

US President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual meeting with industry leaders on April 12, US time. (Yonhap) US President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual meeting with industry leaders on April 12, US time. (Yonhap)

The race to outpace competitors with massive capacity expansions is intensifying among global chip manufacturers and the time for Samsung Electronics to announce its own investment plans is approaching.

While South Korea is pinning its hopes on Samsung, the world’s No. 1 memory player, to announce massive investments as early as this week, the market is paying close attention to the size of its spending commitment and whether it will be enough for the Korean chipmaker to maintain its presence in the global chip market.

What fueled the attention was a report that Taiwan’s TSMC, the world’s top semiconductor foundry, is considering another investment in the US.

According to Reuters, the Taiwanese chipmaker is mulling a plan to build a more advanced 3-nanometer process chip fabrication line in Phoenix, Arizona, which would cost $23 billion to $25 billion over the next 10 to 15 years, in addition to its previously announced $10 billion to $12 billion investment plan for a 5-nm fab.

The Taiwanese firm’s plan reportedly has shifted from Europe to the US, due to the financial support promised by the US government. President Joe Biden has called for $50 billion in funding to support domestic chip manufacturing.

Its move seems highly strategic in that TSMC will have to compete with US-based chipmaker Intel that is investing $20 billion to re-enter the foundry market and Korea’s Samsung for the subsidies from the US government.

Unlike TSMC’s aggressive moves since last year, Samsung has remained silent about its expansion in the US for years.

However, with the Korea-US summit to be held in Washington this week, the market is paying keen attention to a possible announcement from Samsung about how it will deal with the ongoing investment fever in the chip market.

Top officials from Samsung’s semiconductor business are likely to join the business group accompanying President Moon Jae-in during his visit to the US this week.

Samsung has also been invited to a meeting to be hosted by the US Ministry of Commerce on semiconductors one day before the summit on Friday.

Among others, how much Samsung would invest in its US chip manufacturing site and how that would contribute to boosting the US chip manufacturing are at the center of market attention.

Rumors have circulated that the Korean chipmaker will invest $17 billion to build its second foundry plant in Austin, Texas, and introduce the 7-nm and 5-nm processes to its US facility.

“The semiconductor market is all about investment,” said an industry insider. “Making investments earlier than rivals is important to take over the leadership.”

“It would be better for Samsung not to put off its investment plan once again to maintain its position in the US market,” he added.

By Song Su-hyun (