To catch up in the field of semiconductors, Beijing is discreetly increasing acquisitions abroad, including in France, by hiding behind shell companies. On May 13, Chinese investment fund Wise Road Capital filed a takeover offer for French company Unity Semiconductor (SC) SAS, as reported by specialized financial data platform Refinitiv.
On the surface, this fund seems trivial. Created in 2017 to invest in technology companies, in particular semiconductors, it is defined on its website as “Private” and claims a “Independent decision-making”. However, according to the analysis of the economic intelligence firm Datenna carried out for The world, several of the shareholders of this fund are closely linked to the Chinese state. It is in fact used by Beijing as an instrument of its technological rise.
UnitySC, discreet and little known, achieves for the moment only 25 million euros of turnover per year, but could see a bright future. Thanks to its research center in the “mini-Silicon Valley” of Grenoble, it has developed a quality control technology for the silicon wafers on which the integrated circuits are etched. This is promising, with the increasing miniaturization of semiconductors.
Microchips have become essential in the global industry. They are found in smartphones, computers, but also ballistic missiles and cars.
In the world of the infinitely small, the slightest dust, invisible to the naked eye, can cause malfunctions, and each layer deposited on the wafer must be uniform to the nearest millimeter.
Wise Road Capital is not its first acquisition in Europe. According to the daily South China Morning Post, several research or production centers that fell into its own hands have been transferred to China. Barely a month after its takeover, the Singaporean company United Test and Assembly Center (UTAC) announced the construction of a factory in the Chinese province of Shandong (northeast). The German Huba Control, acquired a month earlier from Siemens, suffered the same fate. Part of its production has been relocated to Sichuan province (west). Finally, the joint venture created in July 2020 with the Austrian AMS, specializing in semiconductor sensors, has resulted in the construction of a factory in Anhui province (east).
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