Amid an unprecedented
is exploring a $30 GlobalFoundries Inc., a contract semiconductor manufacturer owned by the investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government. The previous owner of GlobalFoundries: Intel’s biggest rival, Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
which spun out the manufacturing arm in a 2009 deal and committed to buying $1.6 billion in chips from the manufacturer last May. An Intel spokeswoman declined to comment, as did an AMD spokesman. The two companies have a rivalry that goes back for decades in . AMD has primarily lived in the shadow of Intel as a licensed second source of Intel-compatible chips, rarely (if ever) becoming a serious competitive threat until now. Under CEO Lisa Su’s and her team’s leadership, AMD has , starting with its Zen architecture.
After years of, new Intel Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger has pushed to massively expand his company’s foundry business and make more chips for other semiconductor firms. GlobalFoundries would represent a jumpstart, but regulatory questions would abound. Scrutiny is an ordinary course for the semiconductor world, where mergers have been getting stranger and slightly more desperate (and receiving governments’ attention) in . Nvidia Corp.
got the ball rolling on the current crop by agreeing to purchase ARM Holdings from Softbank Group
setting itself up to license designs to some of its biggest rivals. Despite some scrutiny by regulators and some competitors, Nvidia executives say they are still confident of the deal closing. Three semiconductor ARM recently: Broadcom Inc.
Marvell Technology Inc.
of Taiwan, fiercely competitive stances. Broadcom CEO Hok Tan, known for not mincing words, said Nvidia had assured the company that it would “continue to make that technology available to the industry on a fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory basis.”
Some of those executives — especially Tan — know the regulatory pressure Nvidia faces. Broadcom attempted to buy Qualcomm Corp.
and saw the stand in its way, citing China. Chinese investors seeking to buy chip companies have been blocked for years by the U.S. However, Broadcom at the time was domiciled in Singapore and in the process of moving its headquarters back to the U.S., and in 2018, made its head-scratching acquisition by buying mainframe software maker CA Technologies. Qualcomm has had problems with those government agencies, including years of Trade Commission. Now, the FTC has eyes on Broadcom and, earlier this month, charged the company with illegally monopolizing the for chips used in cable set-top boxes and broadband devices. Qualcomm has reportedly been asking regulators to block Nvidia’s deal for ARM.
Strange bedfellows, questionable deals, and regulatory scrutiny come with the territory of semiconductors. Intel wanting tofor its biggest rival’s former chip-making operations to make more chips for its competitors (including AMD) would take that to a new level, though. So, as the semiconductor industry continues to struggle with the issue of demand and the ability to make enough chips, odd and unusual sagas are likely to continue as the largest companies look at all of their options to stay on top or remain competitive, even if that means trying to buy a misfit (yoga classes! M&M’s) or one that makes chips for your biggest competitor. It’s all just another trip through the looking glass of the crazy semiconductor industry.