Intel Capital invests in Chinese semi-conductor start-ups amid tech tensions

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Intel Capital, the venture arm of chipmaker Intel Corp, has invested in two Chinese start-ups in the semiconductor sector, the company has announced, as part of its latest batch of deals. 

KEY POINTS

  • Intel invests in two Chinese start-up semi-conductor businesses
  • The company had previously been critical of certain policies and rhetoric emanating from the Trump administration
  • China’s government has committed billions of dollars to help fund the semiconductor industry in the country

The investments in companies that compete in fields typically dominated by US players come as Intel remains embroiled in tensions between the United States and China over chip manufacturing.

ProPlus, one the Chinese startups Intel Capital has funded, makes EDA software that chip makers use to design their products before manufacturing them.

The leaders in that field, Cadence Design Systems, Mentor Graphics, and Synopsys all hail from the US.

ProPlus Chairman and Chief Executive Zhihong Liu once worked as a Vice President at Cadence Technologies while its director, Chenming Hu, once served as the Chief Technology Officer of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC).

Spectrum Materials, based in the southern Chinese province of Fujian, makes gases critical for semiconductor fabs to produce physical chips. The sector is typically dominated by players in the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

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China’s government has committed billions of dollars to help fund the domestic semiconductor industry, which it views as critical to catching up with the United States and other governments.

The stakes for such initiatives have increased after the US imposed restrictions on American companies supplying to Huawei, China’s top telecommunications equipment provider and a leading chip maker in its own right.

Intel Capital has consistently invested in Chinese start-ups along with small chip companies from around the world. In 2019 and 2018 it announced investments in two Chinese chip startups.

This batch of announced investments comes days after Intel Chief Executive Bob Swan wrote a letter to the US Department of Defence expressing readiness to build a chip fab in the United States, with the goal of ensuring US technological leadership.

(Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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