Netherlands-based ASML Holding NV, a chip industry equipment provider, and Germany-based Carl Zeiss SMT, a business group of Carl Zeiss AG (ZEISS), have agreed to strengthen their long-standing and successful partnership in the semiconductor lithography business. The main objective of this agreement is to facilitate the development of the future generation of Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography systems due in the first few years of the next decade. This technology will enable the semiconductor industry to produce much higher performance microchips at lower costs.
ZEISS and ASML jointly announce today, that they have agreed on a 24.9% minority stake of ASML in ZEISS’s subsidiary Carl Zeiss SMT, for which ASML will pay ZEISS EUR 1 billion in cash. The companies stated that no further exchange of shares is planned or agreed.
ASML is a key supplier of semiconductor patterning products and services used by the world`s top producers of microchips. With its high-performance optics Carl Zeiss SMT supplies an essential subsystem of ASML’s semiconductor lithography scanners and is ASML`s most important strategic partner. ASML and Carl Zeiss SMT have been in close partnership for more than 30 years. Both firms have grown strongly over the last decades benefiting from each other`s strengths.
A new cycle of investments required for the development of an entirely new optical system for the future generation of EUV, expected to be provided to the chip making industry in the first few years of the next decade, has triggered the partners to take a further step in the collaboration.
“In 2018 the first chips made on current technology EUV scanners are expected to roll off the production lines of our customers. A lot of work is still being done to ensure the introduction of EUV in volume manufacturing, in tight conjunction with our highly successful immersion scanners which we continue to improve. Yet ASML and ZEISS are looking beyond this important milestone. We see a long and successful future for EUV lithography in advanced chip manufacturing and with this agreement we set the right conditions for development of the next generation of EUV by ASML and Carl Zeiss SMT, so that our customers can reap the rewards of their EUV investments up to the end of the next decade,” said Peter Wennink, President and Chief Executive Officer of ASML.
“With this agreement we clear the road for advanced lithography to support the new concepts and designs for future generations of advanced chips. After the many years of fruitful partnership, we see this agreement as a further strong endorsement of our long term cooperation which allows us to further expand our joint leadership that we have already accomplished together”, says Michael Kaschke, President and CEO of ZEISS.
The next generation of EUV optics will offer a higher numerical aperture (NA), making it possible to further reduce critical dimensions in the lithography process. The current EUV systems have an optical system with NA of 0.33 whereas the new optics will have NA larger than 0.5, enabling several generations of geometric chip scaling.
In addition to the agreement of the minority interest, the two companies have also agreed that ASML will support Carl Zeiss SMT`s research and development (R&D) for approximately EUR 220 million as well as capital expenditures and other supply chain investments for approximately EUR 540 million over the next 6 years.
These investments will predominantly be allocated at Carl Zeiss SMT’s main location in Oberkochen, Germany, and will primarily be used for capacity and resource expansions, with positive effects on long-term employment at this location. Carl Zeiss SMT will remain fully integrated into the structure of the ZEISS Group as one of the major and important business groups.
“High-NA is the logical next step for EUV, as it circumvents complex and expensive 0.33 NA EUV multiple patterning. High-NA EUV is a robust way for chips to scale all the way down to the sub-3 nanometer logic node in a single exposure with high productivity and reduced cost per feature. That is several generations from where we are today and underlines our commitment to propel Moore’s law,” said Martin van den Brink, President and Chief Technology Officer at ASML.
Carl Zeiss SMT will pay an annual dividend to its shareholders Carl Zeiss AG and ASML. ASML expects that the minority share transaction will be accretive to its earnings before adjustments related to purchase price accounting and differences in accounting standards. Furthermore, ASML`s contribution to Carl Zeiss SMT`s R&D and capital expenditures will be taken into account in the future pricing of SMT`s next generation EUV optics to ASML.
The transaction has been approved by both companies’ supervisory boards. ASML will fund the transaction from available cash, potentially supplemented by new debt. The transaction is subject to regulatory clearance and is expected to be closed in the second quarter of 2017.