Skip to content
  • KOSPI 3015.06 +26.42 +0.88%
  • KOSDAQ 990.54 +7.11 +0.72%
  • KOSPI200 393.19 +3.60 +0.92%
  • USD/KRW 1188.3 -6.70 -0.56%
  • JPY100/KRW 1,044.71 -10.43 -1.00%
  • EUR/KRW 1,378.19 -7.77 -0.56%
  • CNH/KRW 184.65 -0.47 -0.25%
View Market Snapshot

Semiconductor shortages

US pressures Samsung, chipmakers to disclose key internal data

The move will likely put Samsung and TSMC in an unfavorable position versus US-based firms in price negotiations

By Sep 26, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

The US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo (Courtesy of AP).
The US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo (Courtesy of AP).

The American government is forcing global semiconductor manufacturers to submit internal information on their chip inventory as well as the number of orders and sales data in a move to tackle the ongoing global chip shortage.  

The US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo on Sept. 23 during the White House-hosted global semiconductor summit said that the government needs more information about the chip supply chain to increase the transparency of the crisis and identify the exact bottlenecks causing the shortage.

“We have other tools in our tool box that require them to give us data. I hope we don’t get there. But if we have to we will,” said the commerce secretary in an interview with Reuters that asked what would happen if the companies did not answer the request.

The White House gave the global chipmakers 45 days to answer the voluntary request. Such a request has put the firms in a tight corner as the information on sales, inventory and clients has been widely regarded as corporate secrets.    

Global foundry companies such as South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) do not publicly disclose their client list. Samsung is reported to be making chips for Tesla Inc. but has not officially acknowledged the fact.

South Korean semiconductor industry insiders note that global clients such as Apple and Tesla do not want such information to be disclosed, as it can be used to identify and compare the performance level as well as market competitiveness of their products.

Samsung's foundry plant in Hwaseong city, South Korea.
Samsung's foundry plant in Hwaseong city, South Korea.

Moreover, revealing the details of production data such as yield will put the foundry companies in an unfavorable position against the buyers. A semiconductor yield is the fraction of chips on wafers that are not discarded during the manufacturing process. A higher yield means a more advanced level of technology and lower manufacturing costs.

“Disclosing yield information means disclosing a company’s specific level of semiconductor technology. Such information may put the foundry companies in an unfavorable position regarding price negotiations with global clients,” said an industry official.

Other experts note that the information requested by the US government may also impact the overall market price of semiconductor chips. If a company’s level of chip inventory is revealed to be high, the price it supplies to the clients are likely to be cut after price negotiations.

US MULLS LEGAL MEASURES AS AN ENFORCEMENT TOOL

While the global companies are highly reluctant to provide their internal data, they are unlikely to succeed in avoiding the request, with the US government considering legal measures in case of noncompliance.

Sources report that the American government is reviewing the potential use of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to enforce the data submission. The DPA is a US federal law enacted in 1950 during the Korean War as part of a broad civil defense and war mobilization effort.

The law authorizes the US president to require firms to accept and prioritize contracts for materials deemed necessary for national defense. It also allows the president to designate materials to be prohibited from hoarding or price gouging. The president can also force the industry to expand the production of basic resources and allocate raw materials towards national defense.

The global semiconductor industry, especially the firms based outside the US, is concerned that such a request on information may benefit American firms to a large degree.

“It’s not impossible that the information submitted by Samsung and TSMC to the American government may be leaked to US-based companies such as Intel,” said a South Korean industry official.

Intel and the US government have been explicit in strengthening their partnership recently. The Wall Street Journal last month reported that Intel’s CEO Pat Gelsinger met with Biden administration officials and held a rooftop reception to push for its chip investment plan.

The chip industry insiders note that Intel’s aggressive foundry investment plans are strategically in line with the US government’s initiative to set up a stronger global supply chain.

“Intel has been making arguments that the American government must provide more financial support to US-based firms by highlighting the impact of the global chip shortage on the American economy and the role that Intel can play in tackling the issue,” said an industry official.

Write to Shin-young Park at nyusos@hankyung.com

Daniel Cho edited this article.

Comment 0

0/300