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Vishay Secures UK Chip Giant

A Positive Turn in the UK’s Semiconductor Industry

The UK’s semiconductor industry has witnessed a significant shift with the government’s approval of the sale of Newport Wafer Fab to Vishay Intertechnology Inc., based in Pennsylvania. This $177 million acquisition not only safeguards over 400 jobs but also marks the end of a series of controversies and rumors regarding the country’s largest semiconductor factory’s ownership.

For months, the future of Newport Wafer Fab hung in the balance due to national security concerns regarding the Chinese government’s influence through Nexperia, a subsidiary of Shanghai-listed Wingtech. This led the UK government to order Nexperia to sell its majority stake, sparking an intense search for a suitable buyer.

Strategic Investments and Future Collaborations

Spanning 28 acres and boasting automotive certification, Newport Wafer Fab stands out as a state-of-the-art 200 mm semiconductor facility. Vishay Intertechnology views this acquisition as a key component of its $1.2 billion capacity investment strategy over the next three years, targeting vital sectors such as automotive and sustainability.

Joel Smejkal, president and CEO of Vishay, highlighted the acquisition’s importance in expanding capacity for customers and accelerating the company’s silicon carbide (SiC) strategy. Vishay plans to expand the site to increase its capacity in SiC and other compound semiconductors, crucial for renewable energy and electric vehicles. Additionally, it will collaborate with the Compound Semiconductor Cluster in South Wales and other universities and development partners in the region.

A Legacy of Changes and Challenges

Since its inception as Inmos in 1980, Newport Wafer Fab has undergone numerous ownership changes, each reflecting the semiconductor industry’s challenges and dynamics. The sale to Nexperia and the subsequent controversy underscored the strategic importance of chip manufacturing, prompting national and international debates over the security of the semiconductor supply chain.

The concern over Chinese ownership of critical national security assets, in the context of previous experiences with Huawei, highlights the complexity of technology industry geopolitics. The UK government’s intervention, motivated by international pressures, including a letter from US congressmen to President Joe Biden, evidences the growing global concern over semiconductor supply chain control.