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IQE buys RFMD's epi-wafer plant

June 11, 2012 // Peter Clarke

IQE buys RFMD's epi-wafer plant

Wafer supplier IQE plc (Cardiff, Wales) has agreed to acquire the molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) epitaxial wafer growth manufacturing unit of RF Micro Devices Inc. (Greensboro, North Carolina).

RFMD's GaAs semiconductor products incorporate transistor layers grown on either an MBE or metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) process. RFMD already outsources all MOCVD-based starting material, and RFMD will outsource MBE-based starting material with the completion of the transfer to IQE.

The value of assets to be transferred to IQE, including a building in Greensboro, North Carolina, is estimated to be worth $27 million. However, IQE is not paying directly for the assets but through a discount-priced exclusive wafer supply agreement. This includes the supply of $55 million in wafers minimum order in the first two years.

RFMD will continue to own and operate wafer fabs for RF components in Greensboro, and Newton Aycliffe, England.

The assets being transferred to IQE include a fully fitted clean room of over 90,000 square feet and 16 MBE tools housed in a 135,000 square foot stand-alone building in Greensboro, North Carolina. The local management and employees for the unit, consisting of 70 people, will also transfer directly to IQE.

IQE said that it intends to use unallocated capacity from the Greensboro facility to increase its supply of wafers for concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) solar cells in respect of an agreement with Solar Junction Inc. (San Jose, Calif.).

The agreement with RFMD is expected to allow IQE to expand its supply of wafers for solar to a value of $35 million annually without the need for significant capital expenditure.

"The deal secures IQE world class epi-wafer production assets and staff, together with a long term wafer supply agreement, further strengthening our leadership position in the supply of wafers to the global wireless industry," said Drew Nelson, president and CEO of IQE, in a statement.

Bob Bruggeworth, president and CEO of RFMD, said: "We believe this is a mutually beneficial transaction for both RFMD and IQE. Of note, we expect this transaction will provide RFMD with lower MBE and MOCVD pricing, higher return on invested capital (ROIC), and more predictable operating results."

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