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SMIC-Saifun flash project delayed but not stalled

Posted: 02 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:flash memory? SMIC-Saifun project? NAND?

Efforts by China foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) to enter the flash-memory market have been slower than previously expected, according to an analyst.

In 2005, Israel's Saifun Semiconductors Ltd disclosed a foundry alliance with SMIC. Last year, SMIC decided to enter the flash-memory card market help with help from Saifun.

Late last year, SMIC claimed to deliver its first engineering samples of its advanced 2Gbit NAND flash product based on the Saifun NROM 2bit-per-cell technology, and it had planned to target mass production of this product by the end of 2006.

SMIC extended its license to use oxynitride flash memory technology so that it can develop and manufacture memory cards. NROM flash memory from Saifun stores up to 4bits per memory cell.

The Saifun-SMIC arrangement is moving forward, but it is taking much longer than expected. This is based on an analyst report about Saifun's upcoming quarterly results.

Saifun ''is likely to be highlighted by continuing weakness in the NOR flash market, with Spansion facing price pressure and the slower-than-expected NROM product ramp at SMIC,'' said Daniel Amir, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets, in a report.

''This does not mean it has stalled,'' Amir clarified in an e-mail. ''We still believe that SMIC will be well positioned in their 2- and 4Gbit flash ramp up in 2008.''

''I think there may have been a misunderstanding, as our relationship and progress with SMIC is far from being stalled,'' according to a spokeswoman from Saifun. ''Although a little delayed, SMIC is starting production on two 2G products. In addition, we are working together on the development of an 8G based on our Quad NROM technology.''

Overall, though, Saifun is expected to meet its forecast. ''Following our meeting we expect the company to post in-line revenues and EPS for Q3 of $9.9 million and $0.13, respectively,'' he said. However, ''our channel checks suggest it is unlikely that an additional licensee will come on board in 2007.''

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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