Why GlobalFoundries Bought Out AMD and Went Rogue

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By Dave Smith | March 6, 2012 8:58 AM EST

GlobalFoundries, the chip maker based in Milpitas, Calif., celebrated its third year anniversary as a microchip foundry by purchasing all of the shares owned by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), effectively making the company an independent contract chip manufacturer.

"Today marks the start of a new era for GlobalFoundries as it becomes a truly independent foundry," said Ajit Manocha, GlobalFoundries' CEO. "Globalfoundries has a clear vision to be the leading semiconductor foundry partner to AMD and one of the world's top technology companies. We continue to execute on our strategy to propel ATIC's long-term investment philosophy into true value creation for our shareholder and customers."

By purchasing the shares, AMD will be charged about $703 million, and must pay GlobalFoundries $425 million over two years and relinquish its 8.8 percent stake in the manufacturer. In return, AMD will still work with GlobalFoundries and receive chips at renegotiated price points, and won't have to pay the chip foundry another $430 million in 2012.

AMD, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., will still work with GlobalFoundries to build its chips, but GlobalFoundries will no longer be the exclusive supplier of 28-nanometer accelerated processing units (APUs), which gives AMD more flexibility in sourcing out its advanced chip-making process. Current PC chips are made using a 32-nanometer process, but next year's laptop and desktop chips will use GlobalFoundries' once-unique 28-nanometer process.

"GlobalFoundries has waived the exclusivity arrangement for us to manufacture certain 28-nm APU products at TSMC for a specified period," said Drew Prairie, a spokesman for AMD.

GlobalFoundries, which launched in October 2008, was originally an spin-off joint venture between AMD and the Abu Dhabi government's Advanced Technology Investment Co. (ATIC), which allowed AMD to focus on chip design while GlobalFoundries produced the chips. AMD owned 44.4 percent of the foundry, while ATIC owned 55.6 percent of the new business.

To bolster GlobalFoundries' operations, ATIC acquired Charter Semiconductor in September 2009 for $3.9 billion in September 2009, which folded the Singapore-based semiconductor maker's operations into GlobalFoundries.

While GlobalFoundries isn't AMD's exclusive foundry anymore, the company is moving onwards and upwards. The firm will still be owned by ATIC, but even without AMD, GlobalFoundries is still the world's third largest independent semiconductor manufacturer. The company will continue to build integrated circuits for AMD, Qualcomm, Broadcom and STMicroelectronics, and its production level will continue to increase as the company expands and acquires more companies. 

Lately, GlobalFoundries had been an extremely productive venture. In the last quarter alone, the foundry shipped 80 percent more 32-nanometer microprocessors to AMD than in the previous quarter, and in January, the company announced they would set aside about $3 billion in 2012 to expand its factories in Germany, Singapore and New York, which will be home to a new 300-millimeter wafer manufacturing plant in the company's effort to make chips for IBM.

Globalfoundries will be featured alongside Samsung and IBM at the 2012 Common Platform Technology Forum in Santa Clara, Calif., on March 14. The company will discuss semiconductor innovation, various nanometer processes, wafer manufacturing, and more.

The company currently employs about 10,000 employees at eight different fabrication plants in three different countries.

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