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Oil boom boosts Russian electronics

June 18, 2007 //

By investing the proceeds of its oil and natural resources boom in its electronics industry, Russia is creating an electronics bonanza and an unprecedented mood of optimism.


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MOSCOW By investing the proceeds of its oil and natural resources boom in its electronics industry, Russia is creating an electronics bonanza and an unprecedented mood of optimism. However, Russia has a history of failed intervention in its semiconductor and electronics industries, which until the last couple of years had stagnated for more than a decade. So some observers continue to take a cautious position on the prospects for the Russian market and the Russian players.

At an exhibition and two-day conference organized by the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) industry trade body in Moscow, Alexander Kalinin, deputy chairman of the Russian Federal Fund for Electronics, announced that $3 billion would be invested in electronics from 2007 to 2011. This does not include investments in nanotechnology research, Kalinin said.

That $3 billion includes some big ticket items, such as $700 million in support of a proposed 300-mm wafer fab in Nizhny Novgorod and $500 million to help move JSC Mikron (Zelenograd) down to 90-nm manufacturing over the next three years. Nonetheless, Kalinin said, "Our focus is in design as he itemized 2007 spending in support of a number of design houses (see chart below).

But the Russian bureaucracy does appear to have learned some lessons from watching the European Commission at work. Thanks to the economic boom and the revenue flowing into government coffers, it at last has some real money to dole out. It is doing that on the basis of matching funds, meaning that a project should have some sort of business case.

It is hard to overestimate the strength of the current boom in Russia, which has been driven by the supply of oil and gas to Europe and the recent oil price of $60 per barrel.

Alex Freedland, chairman and chief executive officer of Mirantis Inc. (Foster City, Calif.), a supplier of offshoring services and consultancy in Russia, pointed out that Russian central bank reserves have grown rapidly to become the third largest in the world, exceeded only by those of China and Japan.

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