TSMC Is Still Hoping the US Won't Ban Sales to Huawei

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TSMC’s company chairman said at an annual general meeting Tuesday that it could quickly replace client Huawei if the U.S. federal government's ban on selling to the Chinese company’s chip division goes through, according to Reuters

This, in turn, means that TSMC might be planning to fight to keep Huawei, and that its spot could still be unclaimed.

This news comes on the wake of a continued trade war between the U.S and China, during which the U.S. blacklisted Huawei over supposed security concerns with the Chinese telecommunications company. This prevented domestic companies from shipping to Huawei without a specialized license, but recently the U.S. sought to expand the Huawei ban to foreign companies by requiring any foreign manufacturers who use U.S. chipmaking equipment to also acquire a license before supplying to Huawei.

The new foreign Huawei ban is set to take effect within 120 days, which leaves companies scrambling to either adjust or gain leniency. TSMC, for instance, is now working to open a 5nm fab in Arizona, which could strengthen ties with the U.S. government enough help get its Huawei ban lifted.

Speaking about the potential of losing Huawei as a company, TSMC Chairman Mark Liu said “We hope that won’t happen,” Reuters reported. Should the ban go into effect, Liu reassured, “If it does, we will replace it in a very short time.”

That’s interesting news for the chip market, since the possibility of a gap existing implies that AMD or Apple has not laid claim to the capacity already.

This could be because of TSMC’s hopes to keep Huawei as a client. According to Reuters, the company is still considering the possibility of applying for an exemption. Still, that doesn’t rule out that the manufacturer might be negotiating with other companies behind the scenes just in case.

Huawei is currently TSMC’s second largest client behind Apple, with Nikkei Asian Review claiming that it accounts for 15-20% of the company’s annual revenue. Being able to lay claim to that order gap could mean far more supply for companies like AMD or could relate to Apple’s plans to have TSMC develop new Arm-based chips for them.

Michelle Ehrhardt

Michelle Ehrhardt is an editor at Tom's Hardware. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.

  • Kridian
    Huawei is tainted.
  • watzupken
    From a revenue/ profit standpoint, I can understand why. But considering that US have not even lifted most restrictions on Huawei, I don't think this will change anytime. Killing them from 7nm and better fab will put a big dent in whatever advance technology, i.e. 5G, they are looking to introduce. While they can move to SMIC, but I don't expect the same level of quality as compared to the likes of TSMC.
  • DZIrl
    How I see is: Huawei launches new models reusing old branding, eg P30, and avoids ban. Not to mention its own software.
    What American ban has proven till now is that China is becoming stronger, invest much more into tech and soon will be completely US independent. Also, COVID19 shown how whole world was (is) on knees because there was no products from China. If China shuts down its export whole world will collapse. Not to mention US debt under Chinese ownership.
  • pug_s

    While Huawei's chips can't be manufactured using US semi equipment, it means that there will be more demand for Dutch firm's ASML and Japanese made semi equipment. TSMC already has a 7nm fab line which does not have any US technology and Huawei have talks with Samsung for a similar fab line. US' stranglehold on Huawei means more R&D for foreign and Chinese semi equipment makers.