Europe’s Chipmakers Are Vulnerable in U.S. Fight With Huawei

European semiconductor makers don’t rely heavily on U.S. knowhow for the chips they supply to Huawei Technologies Co. They could still take a hit from Washington’s tightening restrictions on the Chinese company.

The U.S. Commerce Department said last week it will require foreign companies to obtain a license if they want to supply Huawei with products based on certain American technology.

A chunk of the components made by European chipmakers such as STMicroelectronics NV and AMS AG end up in Huawei’s smartphones. Production of those handsets is likely to be disrupted if their other components do use U.S. parts or intellectual property.

“If Huawei can’t source other parts for their phones, then it is fair to assume that STMicro could see a revenue hit of up to 6%,” brokerage Liberum said in an emailed reply to questions from Bloomberg.

Europe has been caught in the middle of escalating tensions between the U.S. and China, with countries in the bloc forced to balance ties with an important security ally and a global trading partner. The U.K. has decided to ban Huawei from future wireless infrastructure following intense pressure from Washington.

For now, the U.S. measures haven’t made a big dent in Huawei’s smartphone sales. A recovery in China has helped the company to increase its share of a global market that’s been shrinking because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Europe’s Chipmakers Are Vulnerable in U.S. Fight With Huawei

Austrian-based AMS doesn’t need U.S. software or equipment to make its products, such as 3D sensing components. However, the U.S. restrictions will still have an impact “if Huawei cannot ship phones,” JP Morgan analyst Sandeep Deshpande said in a note.

AMS said it was assessing the legal situation around the latest U.S restrictions and added “we are not able to speculate at this point to what extent they could apply to our products.”

STMicro is “evaluating the new amendments to the rule and will comply accordingly,” a spokeswoman said.

Infineon Technologies AG -- one of Europe’s largest chipmakers -- said it’s evaluating the U.S. decision and will react accordingly. U.K.-based tech company Dialog Semiconductor Plc, which supplies power-management chip for various Huawei products, is monitoring the situation closely, according to a person familiar with the matter. Another European chipmaker, NXP Semiconductors NV, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The European manufacturers face a potentially even greater threat to business if China chooses to retaliate against the latest U.S. move by targeting one of their most important clients, Apple Inc.

“The European semiconductor industry is more exposed to Apple than they are to Huawei in handsets,” said Dan Ridsdale, global head of TMT at Edison Investment Research. “If Apple did lose market share in China, those market share shifts always impact the supplies into them.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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