Welsh chipmaker owner accused of ‘misleading’ MPs

The Chinese-backed owner of Britain’s biggest microchip factory has been accused of ‘misleading’ MPs about the deal, as they claimed to prevent customers from using the factory.

In a letter sent to MPs on the Business Select Committee, seen by the Telegraph, a former director of Welsh chip factory Newport Wafer Fab hit back at claims made by Nexperia as part of an investigation into the UK semiconductor industry. drivers.

Netherlands-based Nexperia is owned by China’s Wingtech, which last year bought Britain’s biggest semiconductor factory for £63 million. The takeover is currently being investigated by the business secretary under the National Security and Investment Act, which gives the government powers to block foreign takeovers.

Nexperia had told MPs the Newport factory was not an “open-access factory” for compound semiconductors, a type of factory that produces components for multiple customers.

Toni Versluijs, the company’s UK director, told MPs it was an “illusion” that an “open-access semiconductor factory existed”. Such a fab did not exist and does not exist.

However, Malcolm Penn, a semiconductor analyst at Future Horizons and a former Newport plant manager, said that was “just plain wrong”.

In his letter to MPs, Mr Penn said: ‘I know from personal experience as a non-executive director … that the site has been specifically developed and set up to offer open access chip processing services to both to the compound semiconductor industry as well as to its silicon customers.”

“Contrary to Mr. Versluijs’ statement, an open access compound semiconductor facility unequivocally existed at the time of the takeover and was processing compound semiconductor wafers.”

Since the takeover, Nexperia has mainly used the chip factory to develop its own semiconductors. Other chip companies, including US-based Rockley Photonics and power cell producer MicroLink, say they have been barred from using the power plant. Mr Penn said it was ‘to the clear economic and scientific detriment of the UK’.

He added that Nexperia had “forced the company to the brink of bankruptcy” in early 2020 after it “denied approval” of an investment from a private equity firm, worth an estimated around 30 million pounds.

Nexperia says it has since invested £160million in the chip factory and saved jobs. He said the board, including Mr Penn, appointed insolvency advisers before Nexperia stepped in and acquired the smelter. He said the company remains open to using parts of its factory to build other customers’ chips if there is a business case and funding.

A company spokesperson said: ‘For clarity, there has never been an open access compound semiconductor facility in Newport. Performing partial processing of a few wafers in a project or providing basic technical support is something completely different. Mr. Penn should know this and even alludes to it in his letter.

They added: “Nexperia stands by everything we have said previously, including during the recent BEIS committee session.”

Virginia C. Taylor