UK looks into Nexperia's purchase of Newport Wafer Fab

July 09, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
China's Nexperia buys Newport Wafer Fab amid concerns
The Chinese ownership of Nexperia is raising questions about the purchase of the power fab in Newport, Wales, UK

Nexperia has bought Newport Wafer Fab in Wales to boost its power and mixed signal capacity. However the ownership of Nexperia by Wingtech in China is leading to the UK government to examine the deal.

This follows the announcement of $700m by Nexperia to boost its power chip capacity in Hamburg and Manchester. The 200mm fab at Newport has a capacity of 35,000 wafers a month. The fab was built for Inmos in 1982 to build the transputer and has since been owned by STMicroelectronics, International Rectifier and Infineon before becoming NWF in 2017. 

The power fab will now be called Nexperia Newport and the expectation is that Nexperia/Wingtech will now take the GaN-on-Si process that is manufactured at NWF and move it to a 300mm wafer fab that is being funded by the Chinse government. Wingtech announced in April that it planned to invest $1.8 billion to build a wafer fab for power semiconductors in Shanghai as part of a national plan to localize the production of components for electric vehicles. 

This has raised concerns about national security in the UK. "There is this company in Newport, we have to judge whether the stuff that they are making is of real intellectual property value and interest to China, whether there are real security implications, I have asked the National Security Adviser to look at it," said UK prime minister Boris Johnson. "I do not want anti-China spirit to lead to us trying to pitchfork away every investment from China into this country."

Details of the deal were not disclosed by the deal is reported to be $87m (£63m). There may be the opportunity for continued UK-owned production in an empty building on the campus, say reports. These suggest Drew Nelson, former CEO and co-founder of Welsh wafer supplier IQE and outgoing chairman of Newport Wafer Fab, will spin off the compound semiconductor part of the business as a new venture, keeping the Newport Wafer Fab name.

"The change in ownership of the Newport site marks an important step for the future of the facility as well as for the region. We are pleased that we are able to maintain the expertise in developing high end silicon devices in the 200 mm wafer fab while at the same time opening up opportunities for us to add new semiconductor technologies,” said Nelson.

“The acquisition is great news for the staff here in Newport and the wider business community in the region as Nexperia is providing much-needed investment and stability for the future. We are looking forward to becoming part of the global Nexperia team and are keen to keep the current workforce. Additional local resources may be required too. We are also pleased that we will be able continue to contribute to the local ecosystem,” said Paul James, Operations Director at the Newport site.

Nexperia said that Nexperia Newport will continue to have a strong position in the Welsh ecosystem and technology development and will secure the current jobs at the Newport site and others across the region.

"The acquisition is great news for the staff here in Newport and the wider business community in the region as Nexperia is providing much-needed investment and stability for the future," said Paul James, operations director at the Newport site, in a statement issued by Nexperia.

In June, Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the UK government's Foreign Affairs Select Committee wrote to UK Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng asking for any deal to be reviewed under the National Security and Investment Act. He wrote: "I must stress again that having the U.K.’s leading 200mm silicon and semiconductor technology development and processing facility being taken over by a Chinese entity – in my view – represents a significant economic and national security concern."

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