Intel CEO Calls Chip Maker 'Willing Buyer' as Industry Consolidates

Intel CEO Calls Chip Maker 'Willing Buyer' as Industry Consolidates

The economics of the industry make deals among chip makers likely, Pat Gelsinger says

Caption caption. reu
Caption caption. reu

Intel Corp. chief executive Pat Gelsinger is committed to buying other chip-makers as the industry consolidates, despite a leading acquisition candidate's plan to go public.

"There will be consolidation in the industry," he said in an interview. "That trend will continue, and I expect that we're going to be a consolidator."

Mr. Gelsinger, about six months into the CEO job, said he plans to use mergers and acquisitions to support the company's revival plan.

Intel had been in talks to buy GlobalFoundries, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.

The talks cooled as GlobalFoundries focuses on an initial public offering, people familiar with the matter said.

GlobalFoundries now has confidentially filed for an IPO that could value the company at around $25 billion, a person familiar with the matter said.

GlobalFoundries is owned by Mubadala Investment Co., an investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government.

Reuters previously reported the IPO filing.

Mr. Gelsinger, in the interview, declined to comment on GlobalFoundries directly, though he signaled Intel's continued interest in deals.

"M&A takes willing buyers and willing sellers," he said when asked about Intel's pursuit of GlobalFoundries, adding "I'm a willing buyer."'

Mr. Gelsinger, who was involved in about 100 acquisitions in his prior roles as president of EMC Corp. and later CEO of VMware Inc., said he is looking to bring some of that experience to Intel.

The economics of modern chip production make deals likely, he said.

The cost of cutting-edge chip manufacturing has risen rapidly in recent years, narrowing the number of companies in the field and likely pushing them to combine forces, Mr. Gelsinger added.

Consolidation has been playing out for years.

Among the most recent big deals, Marvell Technology Group Ltd. last year said it would buy Inphi Corp. and Analog Devices Inc. said it was buying rival Maxim Integrated Products Inc. for more than $20 billion.

Mr. Gelsinger said in the interview that the chip-manufacturing industry has been going through a prolonged reshaping.

"Ten to 15 years ago, there were a good dozen companies that were making leading-edge technology, and today that's down to three because it's extremely capital-intensive and R&D-intensive, and those effects are continuing," he said.

A modern, top-of-the-line chip factory, according to Mr. Gelsinger, costs more than $10 billion today.

Intel is one of the heavyweights in chip making, alongside Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co.

Mr. Gelsinger said deals aren't at the top of an agenda that is focused on turning around the company he took over after a series of missteps.

He has committed to spend big on his strategy to expand the company's manufacturing footprint, add a contract chip-making arm, and catch up to rivals that gained a technological edge in recent years.

Intel is investing $23.5 billion in new factories in Arizona and New Mexico, and nearing completion of a $3 billion expansion in Oregon. It has said more investments in the U.S. and abroad are planned.

The company isn't just relying on its own manufacturing in its turnaround.

Intel last Thursday detailed plans to have TSMC help make some of its newest graphics and artificial-intelligence chips.

The company is turning to TSMC to make those cutting-edge chips while it works to improve its in-house capabilities as part of a push to regain the technology lead in the industry.

Mr. Gelsinger, in his few months in the job at Intel, also has had a busy political agenda. He is urging the Biden administration to provide greater clarity on its plans for trade with China, on which then-President Trump imposed tariffs.

"What we're looking for is clear policy," he said, adding that 25% or more of Intel's business is tied to China.

Intel has some chip operations in China and may add more as part of its expansion plans.

And Mr. Gelsinger is asking governments to help pay for some of the expansion he is planning, tapping into concerns about chip supplies spurred by a global shortage of semiconductors.

Chip-industry officials expect the shortage that has led to cuts in car production and driven up prices of some consumer electronics to ease in the coming months, with some effects likely to be felt for a long time.

Mr. Gelsinger said the shortage could last into 2023.

The pandemic has increased spending on digital items, from laptops to data centers used for computing services that businesses and consumers increasingly rely on. That has contributed to the chip-supply bottleneck, but also provided some benefits to chip suppliers, industry officials have said.

Mr. Gelsinger said that the shortage is driving up some of Intel's manufacturing costs.

The company, like other semiconductor suppliers, has said it is passing on some but not all of those increases to customers.

In some cases the shortage is allowing companies to focus on selling higher-value products, Mr. Gelsinger said, providing an earnings benefit.

There are few indications that the scaling up of chip industry production will swamp demand anytime soon, he said. "I'm just anxious mostly for the day that I can actually say, 'Oh, I have a few spare parts'."

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