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Trade war

US chipmaker AMD sees no new tech transfers with China partner

CEO Lisa Su says joint venture remains intact amid trade war

AMD formed the Chinese joint venture in 2016 in a licensing agreement worth $293 million. (Photo courtesy of AMD)

TAIPEI -- U.S. chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices has no plans for new technology licenses to its Chinese state-controlled joint venture partner, its chief executive said Monday, indicating for the first time that the partnership will not extend beyond the first-generation technology amid the trade war between Washington and Beijing.

"We are not discussing any additional technology transfers," CEO Lisa Su said in Taipei on the sidelines of the Computex tech expo and trade show.

She said AMD, the world's second-largest server and PC microprocessor maker, formed the joint venture with China's Tianjin Haiguang Advanced Technology Investment Co. several years ago. "We did the initial technology transfer at that point ... That one with the joint venture is a single-generation technology license and there are no additional technology licenses."

Su's remarks on the company's joint venture with Tianjin Haiguang, a chip developer affiliated with state-sponsored server builder Sugon, came amid intensifying tension between the world's two biggest economies to battle for the next generation tech dominance. Sugon is an important vehicle for China to build its own supercomputers as well as data centers and storage products.

Su said the joint venture was still intact but "most of the workloads are on the joint venture side but not from the AMD side." She did not specify whether the collaboration was affected by the U.S.-China trade war.

AMD formed the Chinese joint venture in 2016 with Tianjin Haiguang in a licensing agreement worth $293 million, according to AMD. In a previous statement, the U.S. company said the entity would develop chips tailored to the Chinese server market that will complement the American chipmaker's own offerings.

At the time, the joint venture was viewed by market analysts as a significant win for China to secure a piece of crucial semiconductor intellectual property as the country was unable to develop server central processing units (CPUs) itself. Currently, only Intel, AMD and IBM can develop advanced server core processors, while some other chip developers including Huawei, Cavium, and Qualcomm design lower-cost server chips for edge servers that do not require massive computing power based on SoftBank-owned British chip blueprint provider Arm Holding's architecture.

Advanced Micro Devices CEO Lisa Su said that the joint venture with its Chinese partner is still intact, but did not specify whether the collaboration was affected by the trade war. (Photo by Cheng Ting-Fang)

Meanwhile, Su said her company was following U.S. guidelines regarding Huawei Technologies after the Trump administration this month added it to Washington's "Entity List," which restricts sales of products that include a certain level of U.S. technology.

"Huawei is a customer of ours and they've done some very nice PCs. But obviously, we are a U.S. company so we are complying with current US regulations," she said, adding "all business leaders would like [the trade war] to be resolved as soon as possible.

Jerry Peng, an analyst at IEK Consulting, a market research unit of Industrial Technology Research Institute, said large U.S. tech companies, including AMD, will become more cautious when it comes to formulating partnerships with Chinese entities going forward. "Even if there is a trade deal, the technological battle between the U.S. and China will still continue ... and that would make U.S. companies more reluctant to close business and tech ties with their Chinese counterparts."

AMD is one of the few chipmakers in the world to post a positive outlook as the semiconductor industry suffers from a downturn under current macroeconomic conditions. The U.S. chipmaker is set to snatch market shares as rival and industry leader Intel suffered a supply shortage in its chip production facilities that caused a CPU shortfall in the market.

For server chips, "we believe that we can achieve double-digit market share for the six quarters from at the end of 2018," Su said.

Intel controls more than 90% of the global server core processors market while AMD is in the single-digits. AMD's latest advanced chip lineups for PCs as well as servers are all produced by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world's biggest contract chipmaker.

Lauly Li in Taipei contributed to this report.

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