The revelation was made by ST CEO Jean-Marc Chery made during a conference call to discuss ST’s fourth quarter 2018 results (see ST results provide upside surprise), providing additional information around the company’s plan for capital expenditure in 2019 of $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion.
Chery told analysts that part of the capex budget would be used to build a 300mm wafer fab in Agrate. “The construction work of the first stage to support R&D and first industrial deployment phase has already started, with the related building and facilities to be completed and ready to us some equipment for R&D in 2020,” Chery said.
The wafer fab will start out as an R&D pilot line initially but be capable of expansion on demand.
Chery continued: “This new fab is designed to be expandable, of course, according to demand, to start volume production starting from 2021. It will be focused on supporting our growth ambitions and leadership in BCD, IGBT and power technologies.”
The 2019 capex funds are also earmarked for the normal maintenance of established fabs, plant and infrastructure but Chery indicated two other strategic initiatives the money will support.
One is the expansion of installed capacity for silicon-carbide power semiconductor production and the ramp up of gallium-nitride production for RF. “Here, our early investments in wideband gap compounds have already resulted in more than $100 million of silicon-carbide revenues in 2018, and we have over 30 active silicon-carbide projects with many players around the globe, both in automotive and industrial applications,” Chery commented. He added that the plan was for ST remain market leader in silicon-carbide and retain at least a 30 percent market share, which could be worth more than $3 billion in annual revenue by
The third leg of ST’s strategic investments is in imaging sensor technologies where Chery said the investment would be used to for R&D efforts to improve the performance of sensors for Time-of-Flight application and the 3D sensing and to allow work with customers for greater differentiation.
Chery denied that the upgrade of the Agrate build out to volume production represented a shift of emphasis at ST towards power semiconductors but said it was part of the on-going strategy to provide broad-based support for industrial and automotive applications with a selective approach in personal electronics and communications infrastructure.
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