SANTA CLARA, Calif.Fujitsu Microelectronics Inc. (FMI) executives on Wednesday charted a bold course for the once-battered company, with lavish capital expenditures to pay for the company's hoped-for dominance in flash memory and its new 0.11-micron (drawn) process technology.
The vision was served up at the company's annual luncheon for press and analysts, a year after FMI managers appeared weary and defeated in the trough of the DRAM recession.
"Business is definitely good," chairman, president and chief executive Ryusuke Hoshikawa said in an interview. "We're investing in many areas and using our SOC technology to find customers in LAN, wireless and set-top box areas."
Hoshikawa said Fujitsu Ltd., FMI's Tokyo-based parent, has budgeted $4.6 billion for capital expenditures this year, 53 percent of which are going to the Electronic Devices Group (EDG). That's a sector that this year is forecast to deliver just 14 percent of the corporate parent's net sales. That 53 percent figure is the highest percentage EDG has gotten since at least fiscal 1996.
Half of that capital investment for EDG will fund ambitious flash expansions, including a new line at the company's FASL joint-venture fab operation with AMD (Aizu-Wakamatsu, Japan). The company also is converting its Gresham, Ore., fab almost entirely to flash production, with 30,000 wafers per month expected in the coming years. The new line at Aizu-Wakamatsu also is targeted for 30,000 wafers per month. Analysts have estimated that FASL produces almost one of every three flash devices in the world, according to John McElroy, vice president of marketing and strategic relations.
The other half of the EDG's capital plans will pay for SOC logic expansion in existing quarter-micron and 0.18-micron capacity, Hoshikawa said.
On the logic side, the new Cx90 0.11-micron process will hit customer sites next year and deliver copper interconnects and up to 8 levels of metallization. The process, with an eye toward high-speed telecommunications, will incorporate mixed-signal and analog functions, multi-level i/o and embedded DRAM.
Indeed that was the only context in which the word "DRAM" was uttered at the briefing. In luncheons past, half the time was spent on commodity DRAM product-mix strategies and pricing and capacity considerations. A little over a year ago, however, in the depths of the DRAM depression, FMI officials pulled the plug, backing away from commodity DRAMs and focusing on flash and a special fast-cycle RAM (FCRAM) architecture the company has developed.
While the DRAM business has rebounded, it hasn't swayed FMI officials from jumping back in the pool; officials are turning away customers that are asking them to rejoin the DRAM market.
Sticking to its guns on DRAMs apparently isn't hurting FMI: the company expects to grow 35 percent in FY00, outpacing the growth that many forecast for the semiconductor industry as a whole this year.