Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s leading producer of advanced chips, is not so happy about some of the strings attached to U.S. government funding, even as it asks officials for billions of dollars to finish its $40 billion project in Arizona.
TSMC is seeking a total of $15 billion in U.S. government support, reports the Wall Street Journal, citing those familiar with the company’s plans. The chipmaker already expects around $7 billion to $8 billion in tax credits, and could ask for as much as $7 billion in grants.
The U.S. passed the CHIPS and Science Act last August, which includes around $52 billion in incentives for U.S.-based chip manufacturing. Chip manufacturers, such as Intel and Micron Technology, have said their construction of new U.S. factories relies upon government support offered under the CHIPS Act.
TSMC also hopes to use government money to support its $40 billion project in Arizona. The Taiwanese chip manufacturer announced it would build a second factory on the site last December, in a ceremony with U.S. President Joe Biden, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and other business leaders.
Yet U.S. government money also comes with stringent conditions on its recipients, which TSMC is resisting as it starts work on its two Arizona factories.
“Some of the conditions are unacceptable,” TSMC chairman Mark Liu told an industry meeting in Taiwan at the end of March.
In particular, TSMC is concerned about rules that require the company to share some profits with the U.S. government if returns exceed projections. According to the Wall Street Journal, the chipmaker is worried that calculating profit will be difficult owing to global supply chains, and that the planned Arizona factories may not be worth the investment if profit is capped.
TSMC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. included those requirements to ensure that companies could not make excessive profits after receiving government money. “We are not writing blank checks to any company that asks,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in February.
The profit-sharing agreements are just some of the conditions on companies receiving money. Recipients of government funding must also provide affordable childcare.
Recipients are also constrained from expanding chip manufacturing in “countries of concern,” which includes China. (The U.S. has imposed tough export controls on advanced chips and chipmaking equipment to China, and is encouraging allies like Japan and the Netherlands to do the same.)
Korean chipmakers like Samsung and SK Hynix are particularly concerned about these limits, owing to their larger presence in China, including in leading-edge chip manufacturing.
Korean ministers have complained to Biden officials about the CHIPS Act, with the country’s trade ministry saying its conditions “deepen business uncertainties, violate companies’ management and technology rights, as well as make the United States less attractive as an investment option.”
TSMC also has operations in China, which are largely limited to making legacy chips that have more lenient restrictions. Yet worsening relations between the U.S. and China, and between Beijing and Taipei, are still potential headwinds for the chipmaker. Investor Warren Buffett sold most of his $4.1 billion stake in TSMC last year, citing geopolitical tensions in an interview with Nikkei Asia.
The chip market is currently in a slump, thanks to a plunge in demand for PCs and consumer electronics. On Thursday, TSMC forecast a low-to-mid single-digit drop in revenue in 2023, as part of its earnings report. Yet the chipmaker also reported $6.8 billion in net income for the most recent quarter, ahead of the $6.4 billion projected by analysts.