United Microelectronics Corp., one of the world's largest contract makers of semiconductors, has announced plans to sell 10% stake in the company to a strategic investor. The company sees major changes on the market and wants to respond to new challenges. In particular, UMC wants to sell the stake to either a major customer or a private equity group.
"We are offering private equity placement of a 10% for UMC equity and we welcome strategic partners. This is not for financial purpose, really for looking for strategic partners," said Shih-Wei Sun, chief executive of UMC, during a conversation with financial analysts.
The whole business model of contract manufacturing of chips is changing nowadays and requires tight collaborations between makers and customers on early stages of their joint projects. Foundries have to tailor process technologies for requirements of their customers, whereas clients have to design chips keeping in mind all the details of fabrication processes.
In order to enable very close collaborations, UMC needs a strategic partner. For example, a customer of the size of Qualcomm, who would own a stake in UMC and guarantee certain amount of orders. Other types of investors might also help Qualcomm to establish close ties with strategic partners among potential customers, financial institutions or even other foundries.
"The industry landscape is shifting aggressively now. The country is changing. The radical supply chain partnership is getting more and more important. So we very much welcome the partnership. [...] We welcome [potential partners] to any discussions, . But it has to be helping UMC strategically in either technology or above and beyond the business collaboration.
Strategic collaborations on the market of semiconductors are going to become inevitable in the coming years. Large fabless semiconductor suppliers need to ensure supply of their products in quantities, foundries need new equipment and everyone needs predictable situation on the market in general.