Local officials in Tianjin, China, may have jumped the gun today in announcing government approval of Motorola Inc.'s $1.5 billion MOS-17 fab in that city. A Motorola spokesman said the U.S. chip maker still hasn't received any official word from the Chinese government on approving plans to double the size of the fab, which is still under construction.
Sources believe the government approval is only a formality. Motorola reportedly is already talking to semiconductor equipment suppliers about purchasing schedules to install gear in the existing fab shell.
A company spokesman said $750 million has been spent so far on MOS-17. An additional $750 million in capital investment is planned to complete the fab so it could become operational at the end of 2001.
The premature announcement from China mentioned a $1.9 billion Motorola investment figure, but the company spokesman said that also includes $400 million for the company's large wireless communication facilities in China.
Motorola plans initially to use MOS-17 to make microcontrollers for wireless communication devices. Later automotive electronic chips might also be produced at the Tianjin fab, the spokesman said.
Motorola has approval from U.S. export control authorities to use 0.35-micron wafer processes at the China fab. The company is pressing the U.S. government to allow it to upgrade to 0.25-micron processing at MOS-17-especially since the Japanese government is allowing NEC Corp. to transfer quarter-micron technology to its NEC Hua Hong Semiconductor joint venture in Shanghai.