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DRAM manufacturer SK Hynix announces $107bn expansion plans

SK Hynix is set to spend $107bn on four new fabs to keep apace with growing competition from China

SK Hynix DRAM chip

SK Hynix, one of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturing foundries, is set to spend $107bn on four new fabs to keep apace with growing competition from China and its rivals. That significant sum is to be spent on plants just south of Korean Capital Seoul – and likely knocks SK Hynix off the GlobalFoundries buyers list.

SK Hynix dukes it out with the best of them in semiconductor market domination. Like other companies at the top, however, it fears the current manufacturing status quo could be toppled by Chinese competition due to its fast-growing domestic production. As such, SK is going supernova, spending nearly smack-on three times its entire year’s revenue for 2018 – $36 billion – on expanding its production line.

Breaking ground on a 4.5 million square market site south of Seoul, construction on the four factories will start in 2022 – subject to approval from local authorities. The brand new fabs will further efforts from the two existing domestic fabs, which will each receive a share of a $49 billion investment over the next 10 years.

SK Hynix is betting heavily on increased demand from 5G, automated cars, and greater DRAM demand to utilise all of its newfound capacity. And it’s not just Chinese interest it has to worry about: Intel, Samsung, Micron, and Qualcomm are all heavily investing in one, or all, of these booming markets, too.

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This news also puts a damper on rumours surrounding a potential GlobalFoundries acquisition. The ex-AMD manufacturing arm, and 7nm dropout, could be sold by owners ATIC after its recent trip to slimming world. GlobalFoundries has been responsible for most of AMD’s product stack ever since the two companies split back in 2009, yet with Ryzen 3000 and AMD Navi launching this year on 7nm, it has since ceded a large amount of the business to TSMC.

Korean media report that among the most likely potential buyers for GlobalFoundries in the event of a sale are Samsung and SK Hynix.

“Global Foundries is unlikely to be bought by a Chinese company, such as SMIC, in that the U.S. government is keeping China in check in various industries,” an industry insider says to Business Korea. “The most potential candidates include South Korean companies such as Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, and Samsung Electronics can increase its share in the market to 23% at once if it takes over Global Foundries.”

Yet with the recent announcement of colossal expansion, it seems unlikely SK Hynix have the want, need, or cash, for an acquisition of GloFo magnitude. That leaves Samsung the most likely Korean buyer if the foundry ever does head to the auction house.