--ASML launches partnership program with customers
--Intel to take a 15% stake in ASML for EUR2.5 billion and fund R&D to the tune of EUR830 million
--ASML also in talks with Samsung and TSMC to take part in program
--ASML will use funding to develop new technologies
--ASML shares soar by 9% as investors welcome the move
AMSTERDAM--Dutch semiconductor maker ASML Holding NV (ASML.AE) remains in talks with two of its biggest customers Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (005930.SE) of South Korea and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd (2230.TW,TSM) over securing investment to speed up the development of new technologies to produce cheaper and more energy-efficient chips, ASML's Chief Executive Eric Meurice said Tuesday.
The company, one of the world's largest makers of photo lithography systems that map out electronic circuits on silicon wafers, said late Monday it has already secured a partnership deal with its largest customer Intel Corp. (INTC) to develop technologies which will help provide chips needed for smartphones and tablet PCs and to produce them at lower cost.
Under the deal, Intel will take up to a 15% stake in ASML for EUR2.5 billion and will provide EUR830 million in research and development funding.
The Intel deal sent ASML shares soaring 10% in early trade in Amsterdam. At 1347 GMT the shares were up 8.3% at EUR43.03.
ASML needs to invest heavily to develop next generation technologies like extreme ultraviolet lithography or EUV, that can etch more transistors on to each chip, increasing its power.
ASML also wants to invest in machinery that can manufacture 450mm diameter wafers rather than the standard 300 mm. This would increase the number of chips that can be made from each wafer, potentially reducing costs by 30% to 40%.
Intel, the world's biggest semiconductor maker, was the first ASML customer to sign up to the partnership, because it has the most obvious reason to sponsor the new 450 millimeter technology, CEO Mr. Meurice said. The technology will allow it to produce more chips in existing facilities, avoiding the need for new manufacturing plants.
"450mm offers great cost savings but the cost to redesign the entire semiconductor production chain has always been seen by ASML as prohibitively expensive for the equipment industry," brokerage Nomura said in a note.
The investment program with its biggest customers "offers an economic way for the technology to be developed and yet maintain the independence of ASML," it added. Nomura rates ASML a buy with a EUR42 target price.
Under the partnership scheme, ASML is making a 25% stake in the company available for its customers. If Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor sign up alongside Intel, it would deliver EUR4.19 billion ($5.15 billion) on top of EUR1.38 billion of R&D funding to 2017.
The shares offered in the program, however, won't have any voting rights to avoid conflict with ASML's existing shareholders and each customer's stake is capped at just under 20%.
The co-investment program is subject to approval of an extraordinary general meeting planned in September.
Write to Archibald Preuschat; firstname.lastname@example.org