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ASML, China customers haunted by uncertainty on new Dutch chip export rules

An ASML spokesperson said on Thursday the company interprets the government’s remarks to mean that only a thin additional slice of its second-best product line will now be restricted in China, following a complete ban on its most advanced machines in 2019.

But there is an element of guesswork to that. “ASML is waiting for more information” the spokesperson said.

ING analyst Marc Hesselink calculated that the new Dutch rules could possibly affect products that account for 10% of ASML’s worldwide sales. However, that would be a worst-case scenario and the impact will likely be less.

That’s because ASML customers in China include South Korean chipmakers SK Hynix Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, which will likely be granted licenses, as well as domestic Chinese companies like logic chipmaker SMIC and memory chip maker YMTC, which face U.S. export restrictions and may not be.

Schreinemacher said on Thursday the Dutch would grant licenses on a case-by-case basis and not follow instructions from Washington.

But Citi analyst Amit Harchandani said the Dutch restrictions appear comparable to those imposed on U.S. companies last year and ASML’s assessment of the impact is realistic.

For Chinese customers, the picture is less clear. “What we can say is that their ability to pursue leading-edge nodes development will be significantly curtailed,” Harchandani said.

Hesselink of ING predicted that most Chinese chip makers will now opt to focus on “trailing edge” or production of chips using slightly older technology. The Chinese may have a competitive advantage there, and ASML’s sales in China could even grow modestly.

Regardless, ASML will thrive outside China in the long run as chipmakers worldwide expand capacity, he said.

“The demand for ASML machines is not going to be impacted, it’s simply going to shift to a different region,” he said. Reuters

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