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Novellus' Hill: IC market set for four-year growth cycle

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:lithography? NAND flash? fab tool? semiconductor industry?

It's getting more and more difficult for the second- and third-tier tool suppliers to compete. This includes your other rivals in Mattson and Axcelis.
What's most difficult for them is to compete technologically. In the case of Mattson, they are strung out with so many products with so little revenue. The question is how long can that continue? I don't see how Axcelis survives. I think there is a general fear that Varian will have it all (in terms of ion implanter share).

For some time, you have said that Applied Materials is distracted by its efforts in solar and is putting less effort in semiconductor equipment arena. Thoughts?
I don't think they are distracted by the solar business. I think they are focused on the solar business, because they believe it's a dynamic growth market. It may turn out to be a tremendous strategic move. They don't think the semiconductor business is a good business. They believe a good business is solar. They've thrown all of their money in it and they've built plants all over the world. It could be a brilliant move. It just doesn't look like that yet.

Will we see more acquisitions in the equipment business?
I don't think so. It's just difficult to put these companies together. In a large percentage of the cases, there is no need to. If you look at the way the industry has evolved, there is only a couple of competitors in each product segment.

Novellus game plan

In a nutshell, what is Novellus' strategy?
Our core competency is deposition and photoresist removal. We focus on uniformity of the film, stoichiometry of the film and the characteristics of the film. I have industrial segment that is focused on the machine tool business with the same bent. (Besides ECD), PVD is probably the most enabling technology we have for 45nm and beyond. PVD is pushing out (ALD) as far as we can see.

Is Novellus hiring?
We are continuing to hire. A lot of hires are in Asia. We have operations in India. We have operations in Vietnam. We are doing a considerable amount of hiring in those regions. As more and more of our business moves to Asia, more and more of our hiring will move to Asia. Depending upon on how things go with the cost of doing business in the United States, more of our operations will end up moving to Asia. You have to remain competitive in a global environment.

What do you make of the emergence of GlobalFoundries in the foundry business?
They are doing well. They are gung ho. They have a tremendous amount of resources behind them. It's been supplemented by the New York state government. (GlobalFoundries' fab project in New York.) That is the only fab project in the U.S. That's a scary thought.

Will Samsung succeed in the foundry business?
If Samsung puts their mind to it, they will be a formidable competitor in the foundry business.

What do you make of China's IC industry?
I think that's going to take off like a rocket. You saw the announcement between GSMC and HHNEC. I think you'll see that (300mm fab) investment come on in the last half of the year. If you look at the five-year plan, China wants to get into the semiconductor industry in a big way and they will throw a lot of money into it.

You've been skeptic about the shift to 450mm wafers. Any change in your thinking about 450mm?
I think it's still a ways off. It will probably come, but it's further out.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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