UK's biggest chip plant sold by Chinese firm after government order

Britain’s biggest chip plant has been bought by US semiconductor firm Vishay for $177mn.

The Newport Wafer Fab in Wales was previously owned by Nexperia, which acquired the business in 2021. Nexperia is headquartered in the Netherlands, but the company is a subsidiary of China’s Wingtech. This ownership structure attracted intervention from UK lawmakers.

Last year, the British government ordered Nexperia to sell the majority of its stake in Newport Wafer Fab. The move was explained as an attempt to “mitigate the risk to national security.”

The end result is a new owner for the factory, which makes semiconductors for millions of products, from household equipment to smartphones. The chips are particularly prominent in the automotive sector.

Announcing the acquisition, Vishay highlighted the potential applications — and the political concerns.

“For Vishay, acquiring Newport Wafer Fab brings together our capacity expansion plans for our customers in automotive and industrial end markets as well as the UK’s strategic goal of improved supply chain resilience,” Joel Smejkal, the company’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Nexperia, meanwhile, described the deal as the most viable option available. The company welcomed Vishay’s commitment to develop the 28-acre site, but criticised the British government’s actions.

“Nexperia would have preferred to continue the long-term strategy it implemented when it acquired the investment-starved fab in 2021 and provided for massive investments in equipment and personnel,” said Toni Versluijs, country manager for Nexperia UK.

“However, these investment plans have been cut short by the unexpected and wrongful divestment order made by the UK Government in November 2022.”

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