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【Market View】Taiwanese Chipmakers Expand Overseas to Capitalize on Geopolitical Shifts and De-Sinicization Benefits, Says TrendForce

Published Jun.05 2024,16:16 PM (GMT+8)

Taiwanese Chipmakers Expand Overseas to Capitalize on Geopolitical Shifts and De-Sinicization Benefits, Says TrendForce

On June 5th, Vanguard and NXP announced plans to jointly establish VisionPower Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (VSMC) in Singapore to build a 12-inch wafer plant. TrendForce posits that this move reflects the trend of global supply chains shifting “Out of China, Out of Taiwan”(OOC/OOT), with Taiwanese companies accelerating their overseas expansion to improve regional capacity flexibility and competitiveness.

TrendForce noted that the semiconductor supply chain has been diversifying over the past two years to mitigate geopolitical and pandemic-related risks, forming two major segments: China’s domestic supply chain and a non-China supply chain. Recent US tariff increases have accelerated this shift, leading to increased orders from American customers. 

Consequently, Vanguard’s capacity utilization rate is expected to rise to approximately 75% in the second half of this year, exceeding initial expectations. Additionally, inquiries for capacity at Vanguard’s existing Singapore Fab 3E plant have significantly increased, indicating potential support for the new plant’s capacity from customer demand and order transfers.

Currently, Vanguard operates four 8-inch wafer plants in Taiwan and one in Singapore. With no significant increase in global 8-inch capacity due to equipment obsolescence and customers transitioning to 12-inch plants, Vanguard faces intensified competition from cost-effective 12-inch wafer plants in China. This shift has reduced long-term demand visibility in the 8-inch market and diminished market influence, compelling Vanguard to enter the 12-inch foundry market. 

Furthermore, geopolitical tensions have heightened non-China customers’ demand for OOC/OOT production sites. Vanguard’s announcement of a new Singapore plant is timely, aligning with these shifting market dynamics.

Geopolitical tensions drive de-sinicization orders as Taiwanese foundries actively expand overseas

TrendForce reports that geopolitical risks, which foundries recognize will not be mitigated in the short-term, are increasingly leading to supply chain diversification. Customers, seeking to mitigate these risks, are adjusting their foundry partnerships and production strategies, preparing for both “China for China” and OOC/OOT scenarios. 

In response, Taiwanese foundries are adopting a more proactive approach to overseas expansion. Notably, TSMC and UMC, which already have overseas facilities, are accelerating their expansion plans. PSMC and Vanguard, primarily based in Taiwan, are also establishing overseas plants to boost regional capacity flexibility and competitiveness.

TrendForce estimates that the overseas capacity share of Taiwanese foundries will significantly increase from 2024 to 2027. TSMC’s capacity growth will mainly come from its US Fab 21, Japan’s JASM, and German facilities. UMC will support both “China for China” and OOC/OOT demands, expanding its capacities at Fab 12X in Xiamen, China, and Fab 12i in Singapore. PSMC will increase its presence in Japan through its new JSMC plant—with Japan’s share rising to 7% by 2027—and is planning a facility in India. VIS expects its new 12-inch plant in Singapore to raise the Singaporean share from 14% to 24%.

Geopolitical tensions are driving medium- to long-term OOC/OOT demand from customers in Europe, the US, Japan, and South Korea. Simultaneously, China’s domestic production system competes with international supply chains, making the bifurcation of these two segments increasingly evident. Taiwanese companies aim to establish trade and technology barriers through overseas plant setups in this new landscape.

However, despite TSMC focusing on advanced processes at Fab 21, its JASM and Dresden, Germany plants are expanding 28/16nm mature process capacities. Similarly, UMC, PSMC, and VIS’s overseas expansions are centered on 28nm and above mature processes. Concerns over a global oversupply of mature process capacity are growing, compounded by the additional costs of overseas plant construction and global inflation. Future pricing strategies and cost management by foundries will be critical areas to monitor.