(By Mani) Chip giant Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) would invest more than $4 billion and acquire 15 percent stake in Dutch semiconductor component maker ASML to develop 450-millimeter (mm) wafer and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography technologies.
The deal would reduce the deployment schedule of lithography equipment supporting these technologies by as much as two years, thereby saving costs for semiconductor manufacturers. For Intel, the investment acts as a hedge against rising lithography costs and enables Intel to accelerate 450mm production.
Intel, which was involved in the formation of the first EUV consortium in 1997, would take 15 percent stake in ASML for $3.1 billion and invest about $1 billion in the research and development activities of ASML over a period of 5 years.
The key aspect of the deal is the additional funding it provides for ASML's industry-leading EUV development program as EUV has significant issues remaining in the areas of source power, defects, overlay, resist, and mask.
When deployed in conjunction with 450-mm wafer production, the productivity and cost benefits of EUV will be substantial for Intel and other semiconductor manufacturers.
Veldhoven, Netherlands-based ASML makes lithography systems, which helps major chipmakers reduce the size and increase the functionality of microchips, and consumer electronic equipment.
Enhanced wafer manufacturing technologies, especially larger silicon wafers and enhanced lithography technologies with EUV, delivers significant economic benefits to consumers and are direct enablers of Moore's Law, which stipulates that microchip performance doubles roughly every 18 months.
The ongoing industry transition from 300-mm wafers to larger 450-mm wafers would save costs by 30 to 40 percent and the industry can effectively double the capacity of its factories for only a fraction of the cost.
However, this transition requires huge investments that a single chip maker cannot afford to make and at the same time couldn't afford to miss out on a key technological advancement. As a result, ASML said it intends to sell up to a 25 percent aggregate stake in the company to Intel and other semiconductor manufacturers to boost 450-mm transition and EUV technology.
ASML is in talks with other customers such as South Korea's Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd., and has publicly indicated it expects others in the industry to participate in the R&D and equity program.
The investment is expected to reinforce EUV technology development and enable 450 mm prototype systems as early as 2015, allowing the industry to accelerate process development and manufacturing productivity programs.
"Interestingly, the other company which we believe lends itself to a similar shared value is ARM," UBS analyst Gareth Jenkins wrote in a note to clients.
In addition, the deal would be positive for both parties longer term as well as those companies geared into 450mm/wafer size such as KLA-Tencor Corp. (NASDAQ:KLAC).