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Samsung said to be sniffing around European chipmakers

Fresh out of jail on corruption charges, the company's leader goes shopping

Samsung vice chairman Lee Jae-yong is said to be courting Dutch chipmaker NXP on a visit to Europe to bolster the company's position in the automotive semiconductor market.

According to the Asian Tech Press, Jae-yong, who has been released on probation after serving time on corruption charges, is expected to visit several chipmakers and semiconductor manufacturing vendors including the Netherland's NXP and ASML, as well as Germany's Infineon. Press became aware of Jae-yong's plans after a Seoul Central District Court approved the vice chairman's travel plans.

NXP offers a wide array of microprocessors, power management, and wireless chips for automotive, communications, and industrial applications. However, the Asian Tech Press said Samsung's interest in the company, which is valued at approximately $56 billion, is primarily rooted in the company's automotive silicon.

Speaking at a Morgan Stanley tech conference in March, Jeff Palmer, NXP VP of investor relations, discussed the opportunities for NXP to capitalize on the growing number of semiconductors used in automobiles.

"The business for S32 (NXP's automotive chips) is already about $300 million, and we expect that to grow at least about $600 million by 2024, and actually accelerate quite dramatically beyond that," he said at the time.

This isn't the first time Samsung was said to be in talks to acquire the Dutch chipmaker. In 2019, it was reported that the electronics giant was interested in purchasing NXP but backed off due to concerns over potential anti-trust regulation.

While NXP operates several wafer fabs globally, it also relies heavily on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), one of Samsung's largest competitors in the foundry space. As such, Samsung's interest in NXP may have less to do with its automotive ambitions and more to do with robbing TSMC of a major customer.

What's more, NXP isn't the only reason Jae-yong may be headed to the Netherlands. The country is also home to ASML, which builds specialized equipment used in semiconductor manufacturing.

In addition to being the world's largest chipmaker, Samsung is a leading foundry operator, second only to TSMC. Last summer, Samsung Electronics said it would spend $200 billion (₩240 trillion) to bolster its communications, pharmaceutical, and semiconductor businesses.

Roughly $146 billion of that was dedicated to developing advanced process technology and expanding the company's foundry business to new markets, including AI and the datacenter.

Jae-yong's visit to Europe comes just weeks after the exec met with Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger to discuss collaborative opportunities around memory and silicon for PCs, mobile devices, foundry operations, and fabless chip design.

The Register asked Samsung to comment; we'll let you know if we hear back. ®

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