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Geographically-concentrated TSMC spread its wings, is truly international now

A little over three years ago, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was among the world’s most geographically concentrated technology giants with almost the entirety of its capacity within a 300-mile radius. Now, it is on the verge of becoming one of the most globally diversified chipmakers. This wasn’t the plan.

A new facility near Dresden, Germany, is set to begin operations in 2027, the Hsinchu-based company said Tuesday. Coupled with current plans, TSMC will have factories in five countries spread over three continents, rivalling the sprawl of rivals Intel Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. These overseas plants add to the significant operations it has in Taiwan and the two existing sites in China. (For more than 25 years it has also owned a fab near Portland, which though profitable is small and not seen as a company success story.)

Having all its manufacturing close to home has always been an advantage for the made-to-order chip foundry. The tight relationship between research and development, and factory operations, where engineers can easily shuffle between production lines, helped TSMC become a fast-moving supplier in a high-stakes industry. Dotting the world with fabs risked diluting this advantage.

But then TSMC’s true global expansion kicked off in May 2020 with the announcement of a new facility in Arizona, a project which was enhanced two years later to include a second plant at the site, taking total investment in the Southwestern state to $40 billion.

A venture with Japan’s Sony Group Corp., unveiled in 2021, took TSMC in a new direction. Instead of owning a factory outright, Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corp. will take a 20% stake in a factory being built in Kumamoto. Automotive components supplier Denso Corp. later signed on to take a stake of over 10%. (Fun fact: that plant is closer to Shanghai than Tokyo).

Dresden is a continuation down that path of working with clients to jointly own facilities, largely to supply the growing demand for components used in automobiles. TSMC will invest up to €3.5 billion ($3.8 billion) for a 70% share of newly formed European Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Robert Bosch GmbH, Infineon Technologies AG and NXP Semiconductors NV each take 10%, and total capex is expected to be around $11 billion, with the money coming from equity, debt and German and EU funding. Bloomberg

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