Executives from the chip industry will visit Russia and members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in mid-May as part of an annual trade mission organized by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) to explore business opportunities in the former Soviet Union.
The trade group, based in Mountain View, Calif., said it believes interest in the former Soviet Union continues to run high among its members despite the economic and political turmoil plaguing Russia since the breakup of the Communist state in the early 1990s. SEMI officials said Russia's struggling chip industry has benefited from new financing programs, including the creation of a $1.5 billion Russian Bank Development (RBD) as well as the reduction of income taxes and value-added taxes.
"To a certain extent, the continued growth of high-technology industry is due to much stronger support from the new government, especially toward the semiconductor industry," said Alla Famitskaya, regional director for SEMI's CIS operation, based in Moscow. "The situation for the industry has already changed for the better, and, considering all those changes, I believe this is the optimal time for the SEMI program and for semiconductor equipment and device manufacturers to become acquainted with the new business environment, the CIS market, and the current status of the local semiconductor industry," she said, referring to SEMI's CIS Executive Mission and Exhibit, set for May 17 to 23.
According to Russian government statistics, IC exports more than doubled between 1993 and 1997, from $23 million to $48 million. In 1998, despite Russia's financial crisis, semiconductor industry sales doubled again, to more than $100 million, according to SEMI, quoting the government's statistics.
Russia and CIS chip makers have been attempting to find partners in Europe, the United States, and Asia to help them upgrade their facilities as system assembly plants begin to produce telecommunications and PCs in the region. For the most part, technology in the region remains 10 years behind leading suppliers in the West.
According to SEMI, sales at Russian chip maker Angstrem grew 40 percent in 1998 to $28 million. Another chip maker, Mikron, said its sales jumped 60 percent last year, said SEMI.
SEMI's mission and exhibit will be held in the city of Zelenograd, which is considered the center of Russia's microelectronics industry.