TSMC CEO insists US chip plant has nothing to do with Apple

By , Dec 21, 2012

iPhone 5 (manufacturing process 005)

Apple has lately been rumored to have been moving some production lines to the United States amid whispers of a $10 billion silicon manufacturing facility being considered in the country. Various reports mention both New York and Oregon for this project, code-named Azalea.

And because of its reported $10 billion construction cost, there are some who suspect Project Azalea is a chip-making plant for Apple’s products aimed at replacing Samsung. Remember, the Galaxy maker semiconductor arm’s $14 billion Austin, Texas facility exclusively churns out Apple-designed mobile chips that serve as the engine for the iPhone and iPad.

The rumor-mill has been adamant that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest independent semiconductor foundry, will run the upcoming US facility in co-operation with Apple, but now TSMC CEO has issued a somewhat weak denial…

TSMC chairman and chief executive Morris Chang said to The Taipei Times that the United States is just one of the many locations being considered for the plan and that it ain’t Apple-related.

The US is one of the places under consideration. But this has nothing to do with Apple.

He goes on to note that the chip-making fab will help meet demand from customers Qualcomm and Nvidia. DigiTimes thinks that potentially massive chip orders from Apple could raise concerns over TSMC’s profitability as watchers wonder how TSMC is going to distribute its production capacity, and what proportion of revenues and profits it can generate if it receives CPU orders from Apple in 2013.

iPad mini keynote (Phil Schiller, A6x slide 001)

Apple needs north of 200 million CPU units a year. Chang says TSMC’s current output tops out at 68,000 12-inch 28-nanometer wafers per month.

He expected all lines to be running at full capacity throughout next year. About one-third of TSMC’s revenue next year would come from 28-nanometer chips, Chang told investors in October.

Meanwhile, Samsung is investing $4 billion towards increasing production volumes at its Austin, Texas plant, where processors for iPhones, iPads and iPods are being made.

And the plot thickens…

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