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  • Fabs Assess Quake Damage
May 2008
CHENGDU, China, May 13, 2008 -- Semiconductor manufacturers with plants in Chengdu were still assessing damage today in the wake of a magnitude 7.9 earthquake that hit there Monday afternoon.

State media in China are reporting that the temblor in Sichuan Province was one of the worst earthquakes to hit the country in more than 30 years. The death toll had exceeded 12,000 by late Tuesday afternoon and was changing every hour.

The epicenter of the quake was in Wenchuan, about 55 miles northwest of Chengdu and 960 miles southwest of Beijing, according to the US Geological Survey. It was also felt in parts of Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Vice Governor Li Chengyun of Sichuan told state media that the province is in chaos, with more than 3.5 million houses wrecked.

Chengdu is China's fifth largest city and has, over the last 20 years, established a high-tech industrial development zone where companies such as IBM, Symantec, Microsoft, Intel, Fujitsu, Corning, Ericsson, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), Nokia and Monolithic Power Systems, among others, have established operations.

The earthquake disrupted power and cut cell phone communications throughout the region. Although not a major region for semiconductor production, Intel and Monolithic Power Systems have significant microchip manufacturing and testing facilities there.

Intel had to stop production at its factory located 55 miles southeast of the epicenter because of a lack of electricity and water, Fox Business News reported today on its Web site. An Intel spokesman said the factory was not damaged and its 2000 employees were not injured, but the facility was operating critical systems only on backup power. The company said it didn't expect there to be any major supply disruptions because of the earthquake; the factory makes testing equipment for Intel's microchip and semiconductor divisions.

Monolithic Power Systems, a fabless manufacturer of analog and mixed-signal semiconductors, said in a statement that there was no immediate damage to its Chengdu facility, and that all of its employees in the area were accounted for. The facility will be closed temporarily to check power, equipment and the facility and to give employees time with their families, the company said.

According to its Web site, SMIC has an assembly and testing facility in Chengdu in addition to semiconductor fabs in Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin. Sources told IDG News Service that SMIC evacuated a fabrication plant and halted production as a result of the quake.

Freescale Semiconductor shut down its design center in Chengdu. "Basically, there are no injuries, and only minor damage to the office. Employees have been advised to stay home until further notice to ensure safety," company spokeswoman Dawn Lam told IDG News Service.

Other companies, including Microsoft Corp. and Motorola Inc., reported minor damage to facilities, according to the Associated Press, and financial analysts said the damage is likely to have only a limited impact on major microchip production there.

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