China’s ban on some Micron chips highlights geopolitical risks
While the demand outlook for semiconductors remains attractive it will not come without risks to shareholders. Micron Technology shareholders experienced that over the weekend when China banned some of its memory chips in China over cyber security risks. For Micron the ban meant a 2.9% decline in its share price as investors realized that the ban was very narrow and that Micron is only getting 16% of its revenue from mainland China and Hong Kong. For China these memory chips can easily be replaced from domestic production or South Korean manufacturers, but it has raised the stakes that China might go after Qualcomm and Intel as well, but the risk for China is that it will wreck its own supply chains in such a move.
The geopolitical confrontation between the US and China started during the Trump administration years when the former US President basically said that globalisation for not a one-way street of wealth creation. It had real consequences for a larger part of the population in the US and Europe. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the geopolitical risks increased further and the US has taken steps to re-write industries with national security interests. One of these industries is the semiconductor industry which consists of a highly fragile global supply chain that creates vulnerabilities for the US and Europe.
The US CHIPS Act announced back in August 2022 has a clear intent of subsidizing and setting up an attractive investment framework for US-based semiconductor manufacturing. The US has also introduced several restrictions on semiconductor exports to China and the pressure has been increased on the Dutch government to make restrictions on exports of ASML’s extreme ultraviolet lithography machines to China. Making things even more tense, Japan has announced a set of chipmaking curbs related to China which according to China’s semiconductor industry are potentially even worse than the curbs set by the US. In April this year the EU Commission released its European Chips Act in a step to offset its weaker competitiveness against the US post the US CHIPS Act and decrease supply chain risks related to semiconductors. Around 10% of the global semiconductor production is located in the EU.