China's TCL Says Held Initial Talks With Chip Gear Maker ASMI

(Bloomberg) -- TCL Corp. said it’s had preliminary contact with ASM International NV, responding to a Bloomberg News report that the Chinese electronics giant was considering acquiring the Dutch chip gear maker’s $1 billion stake in a local affiliate.

TCL is said to be working with an adviser to explore a possible bid for the Dutch company’s 25 percent holding in Hong Kong-listed ASM Pacific Technology Ltd. On Monday, the Chinese firm said in a stock exchange filing it explores cooperation opportunities with a lot of semiconductor companies but hasn’t inked a deal.

TCL, which makes and sells BlackBerry phones as well as TVs and other home electronics, is looking to diversify into semiconductors, an area the Chinese government has designated a top investment priority. The Guangdong, China-based company is seeking to transform itself into a technology powerhouse by building and buying makers of key device parts such as touchscreens and chips. At the same time, activist investors Elliott Management Corp. and Eminence Capital are said to have pushed ASM International to sell its ASM Pacific shares. The Dutch company’s machines are used to turn silicon wafers into chips, while ASM Pacific produces chip assembly and packaging machinery.

Shares in ASM Pacific were little changed in Hong Kong. TCL’s stock fell 1.8 percent in Shenzhen.

“We’ve begun exploring opportunities with ASM Pacific and other domestic companies to understand the industry’s prospects,” TCL said in its filing. “As of this announcement, we’ve had preliminary contact with ASM International but neither party has signed agreements or contracts.”

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