US Chips Act won’t hurt Malaysian semiconductor sector

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Malaysia Semiconductor Industry Association president Datuk Seri Wong Siew Hai said Malaysian supply chain participants will likely need to expand back-end assembly test plants to package products as more companies move to build front-end new wafer fabrication (fab) plants in the United States

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s semiconductor sector would be impacted positively by the United States’ US$52bil (RM231.5bil) Chips Act.

The bill, which would provide about US$52bil (RM231.63bil) in subsidies and tax breaks to companies investing in semiconductor manufacturing in the United States, is designed to boost semiconductor supply security and enhance competitiveness.

Malaysia Semiconductor Industry Association president Datuk Seri Wong Siew Hai said Malaysian supply chain participants will likely need to expand back-end assembly test plants to package products as more companies move to build front-end new wafer fabrication (fab) plants in the United States.

“This new bill passed will encourage more fab plants to be built in the United States. As such, the capacity and the supply for the front-end fab would increase.

“Hence, the back-end assembly plant capacity has to increase as well to support the front-end fab capacity. So we have to expand our back-end assembly test plants for packaging to support the volume growth coming from the United States.

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Echoeing similar views, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research economist Shankaran Nambiar believes there would not be an immediate fall in the foreign direct investment coming into Malaysia’s semiconductor sector as the country has an “excellent ecosystem” comprising of reliable local subcontractors.

“The semiconductor assembly test factories and the outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) vendors that provide integrated circuit-packaging and test services would be the main beneficiaries in Malaysia,” he added.

It is worthy to note that most Malaysian firms in the semiconductor space are in the business of assembly, packing and testing of the chips.

On the flip side, Wong believes Malaysia would not be impacted negatively from the new bill as the United States is expected to build cutting-edge front-end fabs that are below seven- nanometer (nm) technologies which Malaysia does not produce.

“We are not affected with immediate effect because the Chip Act is to encourage front-end fabs to be built in the United States that we are not producing,” he said.

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