Saturday, November 28, 2009

Yes, the Middle East matters to IC makers

Interesting... The Advanced Technology Investment Company launched GlobalFoundries, a joint venture with AMD, earlier this year. Earlier this month, it agreed to purchase Chartered Semiconductor, thereby becoming a major player in the foundry market. ATIC is owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, and has said it plans to build manufacturing facilities in Dubai Silicon Oasis.

Meanwhile, Dubai World, the Dubai government's largest investment vehicle, recently announced it would seek a six-month hold on debt payments as part of a restructuring, the same day it raised US$5 billion from Abu Dhabi banks. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are part of the United Arab Emirates, and the federal UAE government is under pressure to provide more support for Dubai World, which it may or may not do. The UAE has been hit hard by declines in the price of oil. More generally, the global economic downturn has put a lot of pressure on government finances around the world, and the Dubai World restructuring shows that support for underperforming investments can't be assumed. (Best coverage of the Dubai World restructuring is at the Wall Street Journal. Subscription required.)

I don't know how the problems at Dubai World will affect ATIC or, for that matter, Dubai Silicon Oasis. I've sent out some queries, but don't expect a response over the weekend. The situation definitely bears watching, though. The semiconductor industry rewards patient capital, but global conditions are making patience difficult.

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