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April 27, 2017

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TSMC still considering plans for 3nm chip production

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC, 台積電), the world's largest contract chip maker, said Monday that its plan to invest in an advanced 3 nanometer process remained under consideration.

Responding to a media report on the issue, TSMC said it was too early to say whether it would set up a plant in the United States for that purpose but it was looking at the possibility of building one in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan.

First, the company said, it would have to consider a wide range of factors, such as water and electricity supply, land availability and adequate labor supply.

TSMC said its plans for the production of chips on the 3nm process will be finalized in the first half of next year and noted that its Chairman Morris Chang (張忠謀) had not ruled out the possibility of investing in the U.S.

In a report Monday that cited unnamed sources, the Economic Daily News said TSMC was planning to invest NT$500 billion (US$16.39 billion) to build a 3nm plant in the U.S. since the electricity supply by Taiwan Power Co., the sole power supplier in the Taiwan, was unstable.

The report said the Taiwan government was willing to help TSMC secure land in Lujhu in Kaohsiung for a 3nm plant but the company was worried that it would not be able to obtain the environmental impact assessment in time to meet its 2022 start date for the mass production of the advanced chip process.

TSMC, which holds a global market share of more than 50 percent in the pure wafer business, has been keen to upgrade its production technology in an effort to maintain its dominance.

The chip maker has been working to develop chips on the 7nm and 5nm processes and is hoping to start mass production in 2018 and 2020, respectively, after it started making the 10nm wafers in the fourth quarter of last year.

With the introduction of the 10nm wafers, TSMC is expected to secure orders from Apple Inc. for the A11 processor for the next generation of iPhones, which are scheduled to be launched in the second half of this year, according to market analysts.

TSMC has projected an annual sales growth of 5-10 percent this year from the NT$947.94 billion recorded in 2016.

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