President Donald Trump’s narrowing political options have derailed the audacious US$117 billion tech asset grab masterminded by the Penang-born CEO of chip behemoth Broadcom. Can US chip giants recover from the setback? Can anything stop China from becoming the global leader in chips now?

SINGAPORE (Mar 19): Last November, Penang-born Tan Hock Eng, CEO of Singapore-based, San Jose, California-run global communications chip giant Broadcom, stood behind a rostrum at the White House to announce his company’s redomicile to the US. President Donald Trump praised him as “a great, great executive” and called Broadcom “one of the really great, great companies”. Aside from making America Broadcom’s home again, Tan — who wore a US flag lapel pin — vowed to bring back more jobs to the firm’s new abode and boost domestic investments. The world’s most powerful man and the chip industry’s most admired and feared CEO then hugged each other in a priceless Oval Office photo op.

Within hours of that meeting, Tan launched the largest takeover deal in tech’s history, a US$117 billion ($153 billion) cash-and-share bid for rival Qualcomm, known for its baseband 4G chips used in smartphones. Though his White House appearance was derided as a move to curry favour with Trump ahead of a controversial takeover, the betting was that Broadcom-Qualcomm was a done deal, particularly after Tan sweetened the offer in January with a higher stocks component, boosting the total price tag by US$16 billion. The deal was being financed with US$106 billion in debt from private equity players and banks. 

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