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139.23+0.10 (+0.07%)
At close: 5:40PM BST
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Previous close139.12
Bid135.75 x 0
Ask142.70 x 0
Day's range138.94 - 139.30
52-week range69.06 - 147.35
Avg. volume80,817
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  • The World Is Dangerously Dependent on Taiwan for Semiconductors

    The World Is Dangerously Dependent on Taiwan for Semiconductors

    (Bloomberg) -- As China pushes the world to avoid official dealings with Taiwan, leaders across the globe are realizing just how dependent they’ve become on the island democracy.Taiwan, which China regards as a province, is being courted for its capacity to make leading-edge computer chips. That’s mostly down to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest foundry and go-to producer of chips for Apple Inc. smartphones, artificial intelligence and high-performance computing.Taiwan’s role in the world economy largely existed below the radar, until it came to recent prominence as the auto industry suffered shortfalls in chips used for everything from parking sensors to reducing emissions. With carmakers including Germany’s Volkswagen AG, Ford Motor Co. of the U.S. and Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. forced to halt production and idle plants, Taiwan’s importance has suddenly become too big to ignore.U.S., European and Japanese automakers are lobbying their governments for help, with Taiwan and TSMC being asked to step in. Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron discussed the potential for shortages last year and agreed on the need to accelerate Europe’s push to develop its own chip industry, according to a French official with knowledge of the matter.The auto industry’s pleas illustrate how TSMC’s chip-making skills have handed Taiwan political and economic leverage in a world where technology is being enlisted in the great power rivalry between the U.S. and China -- a standoff unlikely to ease under the administration of Joe Biden.Taiwan’s grip on the semiconductor business -- despite being under constant threat of invasion by Beijing -- also represents a choke point in the global supply chain that’s giving new urgency to plans from Tokyo to Washington and Beijing to increase self-reliance.By dominating the U.S.-developed model of outsourcing chip manufacture, Taiwan “is potentially the most critical single point of failure in the entire semiconductor value chain,” said Jan-Peter Kleinhans, director of the technology and geopolitics project at Berlin-based think tank Stiftung Neue Verantwortung. The Trump administration exploited that pinch point to deny Beijing access to technology. By banning access to all U.S. chip technology including design, it was able to cut off the supply of semiconductors from TSMC and other foundries to Huawei Technologies, hobbling the advance of China’s biggest tech company.It also negotiated with TSMC to establish a $12 billion chip fabrication plant in Arizona. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. is set to follow, with a $10 billion facility in Austin, Texas.The “CHIPS for America Act” introduced to Congress last year aims to encourage more plants to be established in the U.S. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, plans to reintroduce the bipartisan bill this year with a view to securing $25 billion in federal funds and tax incentives. McCaul said in a statement he’s working with colleagues in the House and Senate “to prioritize getting the remaining provisions of CHIPS signed into law as quickly as possible.”News that Intel Corp., the onetime industry leader, was considering outsourcing production of some chips to TSMC under its former CEO underscored the need for a U.S. player that can fabricate at the leading edge, said a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee staff who is not authorized to speak publicly.The European Union aims to bolster the bloc’s “technological sovereignty” through an alliance armed initially with as much as 30 billion euros ($36 billion) of public-private investment to raise Europe’s share of the global chip market to 20% (without a target date) from less than 10% now.It’s also encouraging Taiwan to increase investments in the 27-nation bloc, with some success. GlobalWafers Co. -- based in TSMC’s hometown of Hsinchu -- just boosted its offer for Germany’s Siltronic AG to value the company at 4.4 billion euros, an acquisition that would create the world’s largest silicon wafer maker by revenue.That’s not to say Taiwan is the only player in the semiconductor supply chain. The U.S. still holds dominant positions, notably in chip design and electronic software tools; ASML Holding NV of the Netherlands has a monopoly on the machines needed to fabricate the best chips; Japan is a key supplier of equipment, chemicals and wafers.But as the emphasis shifts to ever smaller, more powerful chips that require less energy, TSMC is increasingly in a field of its own. And it’s helped Taiwan form a comprehensive ecosystem around it: ASE Technology Holding is the world’s top chip assembler, while MediaTek has become the largest smartphone chipset vendor.Tokyo, too, is attempting to attract TSMC to set up in Japan. With 110 billion yen ($1 billion) earmarked last year for R&D investment and another 90 billion yen for 2021, some of that may go to a TSMC facility, which reports have said the company is considering setting up in Japan.“TSMC is becoming more and more dominant,” said Kazumi Nishikawa, an official working on technology issues at Japan’s Economy Ministry. “This is something everybody in the chip industry must find a way to deal with.”China, in its five-year plan presented in October, is channeling help to the chip industry and other key technologies to the tune of $1.4 trillion through 2025. Yet even that kind of money doesn’t negate the need for Taiwan. Indeed, China has long tapped the island for chip-making talent; two key executives at China’s top chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., used to work at TSMC: co-Chief Executive Officer Liang Mong Song and Vice Chairman Chiang Shang-yi.But with Washington stymieing China’s progress, there is also speculation that Beijing could resort to stealing chip IP, with Taiwan at the heart of those endeavors.Taiwanese cyber security firm TeamT5 has observed a steady increase in attacks on the island’s chip industry corresponding to the tightening of U.S. export controls on China. While it’s not always possible to know if these are Chinese state actors, “they are all attacking the Taiwanese semiconductor industry,” Shui Lee, a T5 cyber threat analyst, said.Fellow analyst Linda Kuo said the Taiwanese government was alarmed by a ransomware attack on TSMC in 2018 and had announced plans for some $500 million to help the industry become more aware of cyber security issues.The greater worry is that TSMC’s chip factories could become collateral damage if China were to make good on threats to invade Taiwan if it moves toward independence.TSMC's capital spending of as much as $28 billion for this year suggests it's going to stay out in front.“Taiwan is the center of gravity of Chinese security policy,” said Mathieu Duchatel, director of the Asia program at the Institut Montaigne in Paris. Yet while Taiwan’s status in the global chip supply chain is a “huge strategic value,” it’s also a powerful reason for Beijing to stay away, said Duchatel, who’s just published a policy paper on China’s push for semiconductors.Assuming Taiwanese forces were to be overwhelmed during an invasion, “there is no reason why they would leave these facilities intact,” he said. And preserving the world’s most advanced fabs “is in the interests of everyone.”For all the moves to reel back domestic chip fabrication, it’s optimistic to think the supply chain for such a complex product as semiconductors could change in short order, Peter Wennink, ASML chief executive officer, told Bloomberg TV. “If you want to reallocate semiconductor build capacity, manufacturing capacity, you have to think in years,” he said.In the meantime, geopolitics means chip shortages could become a more regular occurrence, according to Joerg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China.“This is going to move on to the point where actually because of export controls, because of governmental intervention, there will be all of a sudden supply chain disruptions not just because of capacity problems,” he told Bloomberg Television. “So better get prepared.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

  • GlobalWafers Agrees to Buy Siltronic for About $4.5 Billion

    GlobalWafers Agrees to Buy Siltronic for About $4.5 Billion

    (Bloomberg) -- Taiwan’s GlobalWafers Co. agreed to acquire German silicon wafer manufacturer Siltronic AG for about 3.75 billion euros ($4.53 billion), yet another deal in a record year for the global semiconductor industry.GlobalWafers will pay 125 euros a share, a 10% premium to Siltronic’s closing price Nov. 27, the day before public disclosure of acquisition talks, the companies said Wednesday in a statement. The two companies had disclosed earlier they were in discussions, sending shares in both companies surging.Siltronic’s shares rose 1.2% to 127 euros in early trading on Thursday. GlobalWafer’s shares fell as much as 8.8%. Siltronic said at the time its executive board considered the offer “attractive and appropriate,” and that its largest shareholder, Wacker Chemie AG, which has a 30.8% stake, is prepared to sell its stake. GlobalWafers has promised not to lay off employees or close any Siltronic site in Germany before the end of 2024, the Taiwanese company’s Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer Doris Hsu said Thursday. The two companies currently have 20 factories in 10 countries, she added.”Siltronic can help bolster GlobalWafers’ capability in 5G, power and Internet of Things,” Hsu said in an interview, adding the deal will also help her company accelerate the development of more advanced, compound-based semiconductor technology.The companies said they expect the deal to be completed in the second half of 2021. Hsu said GlobalWafers is confident the deal will pass regulatory reviews.The combined company would be the world’s largest silicon wafer maker by revenue, with a market share of 32% to 35%, said Richard Hsia, an analyst at Fubon Securities Investment Services Co.The takeover would mark the end of a disposal process from wafers for Wacker Chemie, which began with Siltronic’s public listing in 2015. Wacker at the time retained a majority holding in Siltronic, which it subsequently reduced and now seeks to divest.The proposed deal would be GlobalWafers’ largest ever, and one of the biggest in the chip industry this year as companies look beyond the pandemic to a return to normal business. The offer will also add to a growing number of semiconductor deals this year that’s set to break the high-water mark for chip acquisitions reached in 2016, when $122 billion in transactions were struck. The largest deal of 2016 was SoftBank Group Corp.’s $32 billion purchase of Arm.Competition in the industry is heating up as companies that were once customers, such as Apple Inc., design their own chips and established players like Nvidia Corp. branch out into new areas.Headquartered in Munich, Siltronic is a leading manufacturer of silicon wafers used in products such as smartphones, computers, navigation and digital displays. The firm, which has production sites and offices in Germany, the U.S. and other advanced manufacturing countries, had global revenues of about 1.3 billion euros in 2019.GlobalWafers, majority-owned by Sino-American Silicon Products Inc., reported 2019 revenue of around NT$58 billion ($2 billion) and operating income of NT$18 billion.Nomura Holdings Inc. advised GlobalWafers and Credit Suisse Group AG worked with Siltronic.(Updates with shares, GlobalWafers CEO’s comments from third paragraph and GlobalWafers share price in 11th paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • A $4.5 Billion Chip Deal Shows Dark Side of the Boom

    A $4.5 Billion Chip Deal Shows Dark Side of the Boom

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- A decision by Taiwan’s GlobalWafers Co. to buy its German rival Siltronic AG marks an expensive bet on consolidation that exposes the stark reality of their slice of the semiconductor market. For the seller, it’s the best deal they could have hoped for.GlobalWafers agreed to a tender bid that values the target at 3.75 billion euros ($4.5 billion). Unsurprisingly, Siltronic’s major shareholder Wacker Chemie AG is delighted and has agreed to sell its 31% stake. It knows it won’t get a better offer.That’s because at 125 euros per share, Siltronic is being bought for almost 25 times this year’s projected earnings. In other words, assuming constant income, it would take a quarter of a century to earn that money back. The only way that GlobalWafers could justify the deal is if there’s a real prospect that the merger will boost earnings through revenue growth or cost cuts. Neither is likely. The target company expects earnings per share to be “significantly below prior year” in 2020. These companies are in the important but mundane business of making and cutting silicon ingots into the thin slices upon which semiconductors are made. Their specific slice of the chip market is underperforming the rest. What’s worse, Siltronic has been a laggard, growing more slowly than the broader wafer market.ccording to industry group SEMI, global wafer shipments will climb 2.4% this year and 5% next. By contrast, broader chip demand will expand by 5.1% and 8% respectively, Worldwide Semiconductor Trade Statistics Inc. projects. This disparity is explained by technological advances, with manufacturers like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. able to shrink chips and cram more onto each wafer. Great news for smartphone makers and consumers, terrible for those that make the wafers.So that means strong industry growth is unlikely to be a driver. However, the merger will create a supplier with around one-third of global silicon wafer revenue. If it is to boost sales, beyond what the combination creates, then it can probably only do so with the pricing power that comes with size. But one-third of the market may not be enough, and using that power would create enormous antitrust risks.That leaves cost cuts as the other chief way to juice the bottom line. Yet GlobalWafers said it will keep all Siltronic staff until the end of 2024. Ouch! Perhaps Chairwoman Doris Hsu remembers that infamous moment in Taiwan M&A history: the BenQ-Siemens debacle of 2005, which saw the Taipei-based electronics maker get stuck with thousands of Siemens AG staff it couldn’t lay off due to German labor laws.There may be some wiggle room for the merged business to squeeze better pricing out of suppliers. Even so, that hardly justifies a 48% premium to the 90-day average price of Siltronic shares prior to the first disclosure of this deal two weeks ago.Funding is also a worry. GlobalWafers will pay in cash through financing arranged by DBS Group Holdings Ltd. Siltronic had just 36.3 million euros in free cash flow last year — barely 1% of the acquisition price — and has said it expects net cash flow to decline this year. Further, GlobalWafers has committed  to “ensuring adequate capex to support existing wafer production lines.” So the takeover could be a real drain on the buyer with limited benefit to revenue, or cash.The world may well be experiencing booming demand for the chips that power our digital lives. But every now and then a deal comes along that exposes the disparities in this global industry. GlobalWafers’ purchase of Siltronic shows that not all semiconductor suppliers are created equal. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.