TSMC’s Morris Chang back at the helm, steering toward solar, LEDs

June 11, 2009 – Media and investors are abuzz with word from top global foundry bellwether TSMC that Morris Chang has retaken the helm of the company, with goals to make a concerted push outside the semiconductor world into LEDs and solar energy.

At the company’s 2009 shareholders meeting, Chang, who also will retain his chairman title (Rick Tsai will head up TSMC’s new business development), indicated the foundry business will grow over the next decade (as much as 50% from current levels to $14B-$15B by 2018), but the better growth will come from non-foundry businesses, which are pegged to top $2B by then. With semiconductor growth slowing industrywide, “There will be many challenges in future and one of them is to create new businesses to fuel TSMC’s growth,” he said, quoted by Reuters. Tsai pointed specifically to the green/solar sector for opportunities “that will help fuel the company’s growth and profit.” Reuters also pointed out that TSMC didn’t rule out the possibility of spinning off the new units in the future.

Industry watchers offered mixed reactions to the exec shuffle. TSMC’s management has been solid enough, and Chang involved in the industry enough, that it probably won’t make a big difference, UBS semiconductor analyst Jonah Cheng, told Reuters.

Local media, though, expressed shock at the deal, given that TSMC is the lone major foundry turning a profit and its May sales continued to climb, suggesting the worst may be over. While acknowledging the need to explore non-semiconductor, higher-growth opportunities, “the reshuffle of senior executives come as a shock, as Tsai performed well,” noted Kenneth Lee, senior semiconductor analyst at Fubon Securities Investment Services Co., quoted by the Taipei Times.

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