Caixin
Nov 04, 2019 07:57 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Gree Deepens Chip Drive With Involvement in Dutch Semiconductor Firm Deal

A Gree appliance store in Central China's Hubei province on Oct. 29. Photo: IC Photo
A Gree appliance store in Central China's Hubei province on Oct. 29. Photo: IC Photo

Chinese air conditioner giant Gree Electric Appliances Inc. has deepened its involvement in chipmaking by buying a stake in smartphone-maker Wingtech Technology Co. Ltd., to fund the company’s acquisition of a Dutch semiconductor manufacturer.

According to a Friday filing from the Shanghai-listed smartphone contract manufacturer, Gree jointly bought a 12.33% stake in Wingtech, along with Zhuhai Ronglin Equity Investment Partnership, in which Gree is the biggest investor. Gree holds 3.45%, while Ronglin holds 8.88%.

Last October, Wingtech said it planned to acquire 75.9% of Nexperia BV for just over 25 billion yuan ($3.6 billion).

Wingtech said in a June filing that it received approval to sell new shares to fund its acquisition of Nexperia. According to that filing, Gree will pay 3 billion yuan for a 10.98% stake in Wingtech.

There have been no further updates about the status of Wingtech’s acquisition of Nexperia.

Gree President Dong Mingzhu said in May last year that the company plans to spend 50 billion yuan over three years to develop its own microchips. The reliance of Gree and other Chinese firms on imported chips was brought into stark relief last year, when the U.S. blacklisted telecom-gear firms ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

To further its ambition, Gree set up its own chipmaking unit Zhuhai Lingbianjie with 1 billion yuan of registered capital in August last year. Two months later, Gree established a joint venture with Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor Co. Ltd. to develop semiconductor technologies.

In June, Gree announced it had started using its own chips in some of its air conditioners.

But still, some market watchers have said that these plans might be nothing more than hot air, citing Gree’s inexperience and the sky-high costs of development.

Gree dominates China’s air conditioner market with a 35% share, according to Euromonitor International, though its dominance has diminished over the last few years.

Nexperia is the former Standard Products business unit of Dutch firm NXP Semiconductors, with a strong business presence in semiconductor product design and manufacturing.

Wingtech assembles devices for smartphone brands include Huawei and Xiaomi Corp.

Han Wei contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Tang Ziyi (ziyitang@caixin.com)

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