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Tim Culpan

Heavy Is the Head That Wears the Semiconductor Crown

Being a global powerhouse will bring TSMC more scrutiny, much of it unwanted, from both clients and regulators.

The chipmaker isn’t used to this kind of scrutiny. It needs to learn.

The chipmaker isn’t used to this kind of scrutiny. It needs to learn.

Photographer: Igor Golovniov/SOPA ImagesLightRocket/Getty

Just 10 days ago, I noted that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s earnings and outlook served as proof that it’s truly the global king of chips. Since then, the company has grown even stronger, but more good news also increases the burden and will likely draw far more attention than it’s comfortable with.

Being bigger and more indispensable sounds like a great position to be in. Yet that could also irk competition regulators, clients and governments that, amid a tech cold war, worry that one company may have become too powerful.

The way that TSMC brushed off the pending loss of orders from Huawei Technologies Co. to raise its spending plan for the year is what had recently impressed me. Then last week, Intel Corp. revealed that its next, most-advanced chips would again be delayed, sending the American company’s stock down 16%. As colleague Tae Kim noted, investors have seen this movie before. Intel has slipped up too many times in recent years, allowing rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. to take market share, and spurring Apple Inc. to drop Intel processors in favor of designing its own.