Taiwan Semiconductor to Spend $258 Million on Taichung Solar Cell Factory

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest custom manufacturer of chips, will spend $258 million in the first phase of a plan to make solar modules as it turns to renewable energy to boost growth.

“The investments will ensure continued future revenue growth,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Morris Chang said today.

Taiwan Semiconductor will begin volume production at the plant in Taichung, central Taiwan, in 2012, with equipment to be moved in from April next year, the company said in a statement. The initial annual capacity of 200 megawatts will be increased in the second phase to 700 megawatts, and the facility will eventually employ 2,000 people, it said.

The company, which makes chips for Qualcomm Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc., is developing solar energy and light-emitting diodes to supplement growth from semiconductors. Global solar capacity demand will climb 23 percent annually to 2015, as the company targets long-term annual revenue growth of 10 percent.

Revenue and pre-tax profit will climb more than 40 percent this year and at least 10 percent next year as the company outgrows the global chip market, Chang said.

Global chip industry sales will expand 30 percent this year and 5 percent next year, Chang said. The company’s 10 percent long-term annual growth target compares with Chang’s earlier forecast for a 7 percent annual industrywide expansion.

TSMC fell 1 percent to NT$60.60 at 1:06 p.m. in Taipei.

Solar Modules

Taiwan Semiconductor announced in June it would buy 21 percent of San Jose-based Stion Corp. for $50 million to develop and manufacture a thin-film solar technology called copper indium gallium selenide technology, or CIGS.

Some types of thin-film solar cells can produce electricity up to 20 percent cheaper then silicon-based cells, according to estimates from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Taiwan Semiconductor’s CIGS modules currently convert 12 percent of solar energy into electricity, and aims to raise that to 16 percent in five years, said Rick Tsai, president of new businesses.

Spending at the company will reach a record $5.9 billion this year as it boosts capacity and improves technology in anticipation of higher demand for chips used in phones, electronics devices and computers, Chang said, reiterating an earlier forecast. The company will spend an additional NT$300 billion ($9.4 billion) in coming years to build new chip factories in Taichung, Chang said on July 16.

Chang raised his forecast for the global chip market in June, predicting average growth of 7 percent annually from 2011 to 2016, compared with an earlier forecast of 4 percent to 6 percent. Demand will be spurred by developing economies such as China, he said.

Global solar capacity demand will grow an average 23 percent between 2009 and 2015, Tsai said. Demand for solar power using CIGS technology will grow an average 115 percent between this year and 2015, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Culpan in Taipei at tculpan1@bloomberg.net

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