Future ownership of Newport Wafer Fab delayed again • The Register

The fate of Newport Wafer Fab remains undecided as another deadline for the UK government’s final decision on its sale to Chinese company Nexperia has passed, with no confirmation from the employees or customers involved.

Newport Wafer Fab operates the UK’s largest chip-making facility and produces up to 32,000 silicon wafers a month, but it was sold in 2021 for £63m to Dutch company Nexperia, now a subsidiary of Chinese company Wingtech Technology.

Britain’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) launched a belated national security assessment of the sale in May, using powers gained under the National Security and Investment Act 2021 to consider whether the deal could be rolled back should be made or maintained.

A decision based on the findings of the investigation was expected in July, but the BEIS instead asked for an additional 45 days to consider the implications of approving the sale. Those extra 45 days rolled into September, after which the ministry requested even more time to make a decision, giving itself until October 3 to make its absolutely final decision.

Now it looks like Newport Wafer Fab and Nexperia will have to keep waiting as it seems that BEIS has more important things on their minds at the moment.

We asked BEIS for an update on the safety assessment, expecting details on how the government decided to go with the decision, but instead a ministry spokesman told us:

“The only date we have been officially given by the Investment Security Unit (ISU) remains October 3. But there are circumstances when they can stop the clock to take a closer look at certain topics. We don’t expect an announcement on Monday. Beyond that, we cannot comment further.”

As for BEIS, September 2022 was quite an eventful month in the UK when Liz Truss was declared leader of the Conservative Party (and thus de facto Prime Minister), heralding a change in many department heads, including former BEIS Secretary Kwasi Kwaiteng. BEIS is now led by the haunted pencil who is Jacob Rees-Mogg. Queen Elizabeth’s funeral also disrupted the flow of normal government business, and the BEIS has also had its hands full with the energy crisis, which has caused the price of energy to double for consumers and businesses in recent times.

While deciding on the future of a UK chip company may not be a priority for BEIS right now, further delays for Newport Wafer Fab and Nexperia could prove to be more than a minor inconvenience, to which neither will be able to go ahead British government decides on this matter.

Back in July, Toni Versluijs, Nexperia’s UK Country Manager, expressed frustration with the safety assessment at a meeting of the BEIS committee and said his company needed reassurance.

Versluijs said the “investigation must be carried out expeditiously” and claimed that Nexperia’s customers are “growing impatient for clarity”.

He also claimed that Nexperia did in fact save the Newport Wafer Fab from bankruptcy and denied speculation that Nexperia was planning to close the factory and move operations overseas, claiming that the company was investing in its UK operations instead.

The belated assessment of Nexperia’s acquisition of Newport Wafer Fab followed a renewed awareness of the importance of technology for the UK as a developed nation, amid fears that the country is allowing its most valuable technological assets to be sold into foreign ownership.

However, the BEIS can act more quickly when the mood calls for it: in August it announced that it had used its powers under the NSIA to block the sale of British chip design software company Pulsic to a Chinese company on national security grounds. Pulsic is an Electronic Design Automation (EDA) company that manufactures placement and routing tools used in the design and development of circuit layouts for chips. ®

https://www.theregister.com/2022/10/04/newport_wafer_fab_decision_delayed_nexperia_china/ Future ownership of Newport Wafer Fab delayed again • The Register

Rick Schindler

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