ASML caught in Dutch oven with China export restrictions

Government could reveal details of new regulations by the end of month

The Dutch government is expected to finally publish long-awaited rules covering extended export restrictions on technology to China next week, with ASML as a maker of advanced chipmaking gear likely to be one of those affected.

The Netherlands formally joined US efforts aimed at curbing Chinese access to advanced technology and the tools to develop and manufacture cutting-edge semiconductors earlier this year following months of pressure from Washington.

But the government did not immediately specify what restrictions it was planning to put in place, and it now appears that these may be revealed as soon as June 30, according to Bloomberg. It states that Dutch lawmakers have drafted their export control regulations as a blueprint that may be used by other European Union member states, citing unnamed sources that are claimed to be familiar with the matter.

As previously reported, the restrictions are not expected to make any reference to specific entities such as China or ASML, but are expected to restrict the sale of high-tech equipment including the deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography machines that are manufactured by ASML.

Sales of ASML's most advanced equipment that uses extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelengths have already been restricted under previous regulations put in place in 2019. Such equipment is used in the fabrication processes for 5nm and 3nm chips.

An ASML spokesperson confirmed to The Register that the regulations in question are not new but the same rules that were announced earlier in the year, and that the details still remain confidential as it awaits the finalized guidance from Dutch authorities.

ASML referred us to its official statement issued at the time, which it said still applies. This states that ASML will need to apply for export licenses for shipment of the most advanced immersion DUV systems, and that its interpretation of this is that it would include its NXT:2000i unit and subsequent immersion systems.

However, ASML does not expect that the restrictions will have a significant impact on its financial outlook for 2023 or for longer-term scenarios the company outlined during an Investor Day last year.

ASML said that customers that are primarily focused on mature production nodes – which typically refers to 40nm and above – are well served with less advanced immersion lithography tools.

The company also said that its longer-term scenarios are primarily based on "global secular demand and technology trends" rather than on detailed location assumptions – perhaps a hint at the Chinese market.

For its Q1 2023 earnings, ASML reported net income of €2.0 billion ($2.19 billion) on net sales of €6.7 billion ($7.3 billion), up from €3.5 billion ($3.8 billion) in net sales for the same quarter a year ago. ®

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