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Renesas expects bigger damage from fire at its chip factory

Loss of advanced semiconductors could worsen global crunch

The fire broke out at Renesas' Naka factory in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture, on March 19. (Photo courtesy of Renesas)

TOKYO -- Japanese chipmaker Renesas Electronics said on Monday that damage from a recent fire at a chipmaking plant could be worse than expected, with 17 machines affected, rather than 11 as originally counted.

The effects of soot were bigger than originally anticipated, the company said, fueling concerns over prolonged chip shortages for automakers, among other sectors.

The fire broke out at its Naka factory in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture, on March 19, damaging production lines that mass-produce the company's state-of-the-art 300-mm semiconductor wafers.

President and CEO Hidetoshi Shibata told reporters on March 21 that the company will make efforts to resume production within a month, but he also hinted at delays, citing some uncertainties.

As of March 21, the company confirmed that 11 machines, including plating machines used for wiring, had been damaged, but subsequent surveys found that more machines had been damaged. Renesas will strive to secure alternative equipment, both new and secondhand. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will also support the company's smooth procurement of manufacturing equipment.

A Renesas representative said the company is checking on the damage to equipment and plans to compile the damage status by Tuesday.

Renesas dominates nearly 20% of global market share for microcomputers, which control cars and other machines. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused the Naka factory to halt production for about three months, dealing a blow to the country's auto production. The fire broke out amid a global crunch of automotive chips, spurring concerns over the ripple effect.

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