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How a global foundry is losing money in a chip boom

Tim Culpan
Tim Culpan10/7/2021 9:46 PM GMT+08  • 4 min read
How a global foundry is losing money in a chip boom
If you want a playbook for how to lose money in a chip boom, just read GlobalFoundries’ prospectus.
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The current state of the global semiconductor market has been alternatively labelled by automakers, politicians and executives as a shortage, a crisis, and even a squeeze. For the companies at the centre of it all, the only word to describe what we are seeing is a chip boom. It is inexplicable, then, that any company which ought to be bathing in profits could still be losing money.

Enter GlobalFoundries — the world’s third-largest contract chipmaker that has just filed for a Nasdaq listing. With shares of leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) up more than double since the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and nearest rival United Microelectronics Corp rising almost five fold, investors ought to be clamouring over GlobalFoundries’ US$1 billion ($1.36 billion) offering.

Like its rivals, GlobalFoundries manufactures chips based on the designs of clients, most of which do not have their own factories. Rather than land the most-advanced orders for components like smartphone processors and graphics chips, the company in 2018 reoriented its strategy toward chasing down older product types — which it euphemistically calls “feature rich” — that include parts that convert sound and images to digital signals.

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