Tsinghua Unigroup rumored to take over GlobalFoundries' wafer fab in Chengdu, China

Jack Wu, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0


Industry rumors stated that Tsinghua Unigroup could be taking over GlobalFoundries (GF)'s 12-inch wafer fab in Chengdu, China. In exchange, the Chengdu city government will be investing in Tsinghua Unigroup.

There are several reasons why Tsinghua Unigroup was approached for this takeover by the Chengdu government. For one, it's a Chinese semiconductor company with plenty of experience operating a wafer fab. The other is due to the major semiconductor investments of Beijing Zhiguangxin Holdings, Tsinghua Unigroup's new owner.

According to reports by Icsmart, plans for GF's Chengdu site began back in 2016. Under the support of then-CEO Sanjay Jha, GF launched its plans to build a factory in China. At the end of May 2016, GF signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Chongqing government regarding building a 12-inch wafer fab. However, that plan later fell through, and GF ended up moving its factory plans to Chengdu.

In May 2017, GF announced its plans to build a 12-inch wafer fab in Chengdu. The site would be over 165 acres, with an investment of over US$10 billion. The original plan was to construct the wafer fab in two stages. The first stage would be mature processes (180nm/130nm) and was expected to begin production before the end of 2018. The second stage would be the 22FDX FD-SOI process, expected to begin operation in 4Q19.

However, in June 2018, GF began a wave of global layoffs, and recruitment for the Chengdu fab was halted. In August of the same year, GF paused all developments of advanced processes under 7nm. By February 2019, GF's Chengdu fab shut down completely, with all equipment cleared out. In May 2020, the fab made an announcement titled "Regarding the human resource optimization policy and work stoppage/business closure notice," officially ceasing all operations and laying off the remaining 74 employees.

Although rumored to take over the Chengdu site, whether or not Tsinghua Unigroup will take over the factory remains to be seen. For one, the group itself has just gone through a bankruptcy reorganization in July 2022, with both of its original owners backing out entirely. The other major issue is the current state of the Chengdu fab. Former employees have called the factory "unfinished" and "empty," as all equipment has been removed.

With Tsinghua Unigroup less than one year removed from a bankruptcy reorganization, the current bare-bones state of the Chengdu fab, and the US' continued expansion of its advanced chip equipment export restrictions to China, even if Tsinghua Unigroup does take over the wafer fab in the future, it might not be able to be put it into operation.

Tsinghua Unigroup's new owner, Beijing Zhiguangxin Holdings, currently controls 100% of the company's stock. This holding company is established through the "Wise Road Jian Guang Alliance," an alliance headlined by two asset management companies, JAC Capital and Wise Road Capital.