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China Chipmaker’s $3 Billion Listing a Hedge Against U.S. Curbs

Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. is planning a Shanghai share sale that could fetch billions of dollars for a Chinese chipmaker Beijing’s counting on to help reduce reliance on U.S. technology.

The Hong Kong-listed company known as SMIC surged 11%, the most in more than two years, after its board approved plans to float as many as 1.69 billion new shares on a Shanghai market created to host fast-growing enterprises. It could end up raising more than $3 billion based on its closing value of more than $11 billion.

SMIC is one of several chip companies that embody Beijing’s hope of creating a self-reliant and world-class semiconductor industry. It plans to use the proceeds to develop next-generation chipmaking to try and compete with Intel Corp. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. That effort comes at a time the Trump administration may tighten restrictions on the sale of technology to China, threatening to deny domestic companies like SMIC or Huawei Technologies Co. access to crucial components and circuitry.

“Strategically, we believe SMIC is gradually severing ties to the U.S. capital markets, as the tension between the U.S. and China escalates because of Covid-19 and another round of trade war is brewing,” Bernstein analysts wrote in a note.

Read more: Huawei Warns of ‘Pandora’s Box’ If U.S. Curbs Taiwan Supply

SMIC’s decision moves the tech giant closer to its roots, following its voluntary delisting of American depositary shares from New York last year. Its envisioned listing is a boost for the Sci-Tech Innovation Board -- better known as the STAR market -- which has struggled to attract major technology companies since its launch last year. The offering could raise some $3.2 billion and add to an existing cash pile of about $2.2 billion, according to Sanford C. Bernstein analysts Mark Li, Hanxu Wang and Edward Hou.

It aims to pour new funds into research and deepen its capability in 12-inch wafers, helping it better compete with far larger rival TSMC, especially as Washington considers constraints against the Taiwanese company as well.

Like TSMC, SMIC is a so-called foundry that helps fabricate silicon based on other companies’ designs. It currently competes against its bigger rival in nodes larger than 14 nanometers, a technology widely used in processors for smartphones and servers. But it lags behind in more advanced technologies that customers from Apple Inc. to Huawei crave.

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