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China’s largest chipmaker warns of rapid freeze as smartphone demand skids

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Manufacturing Corp. warned that clients in sectors such as smartphones were freezing orders, underscoring how a downturn in consumer electronics demand is hurting the chip sector.

Waning demand from makers of smartphones and TV components is forcing SMIC to readjust its manufacturing plans, co-CEO Zhao Haijun told analysts on Friday. The economic downturn and inventory adjustments have spurred “rapid freeze and urgent order halts” as some clients hold off on placing new orders, he said on a conference call. SMIC fell as much as 3.1% in Hong Kong.

Investors fear the notoriously cyclical chip industry is hurtling toward a prolonged slump after years of shortages led to heavy investments in capacity. SMIC is among a raft of manufacturers now grappling with rapidly crumbling global electronics demand, as consumers leave a pandemic-era boom behind. It’s also contending with steadily tightening restrictions as Washington tries to contain Beijing’s technological rise.

China’s largest chipmaker reported revenue rose 42% to $1.9 billion in the second quarter, generally in line with expectations. It posted net income of $514.3 million in the second quarter, surpassing the $469.5 million average estimate.

SMIC is at the vanguard of China’s long-term ambition to produce chips sophisticated enough to replace American silicon, which comprise the majority of the country’s annual $155 billion in consumption.

It remains a technological leader in a giant domestic industry now gripped by a series of corruption probes, as senior officials frustrated with the nation’s lack of progress in semiconductors begin to hold executives accountable. The outcome of the widening dragnet and its impact on local players remain unclear.

have played a central role in curbing the country’s chip ambitions. The Trump administration blacklisted SMIC about two years ago on national security concerns, citing the company’s ties with the Chinese military, an allegation the chipmaker has denied. Washington is now also pressing allies into the effort, so that key suppliers like the Netherlands’ ASML Holding NV and Japan’s Nikon Corp. join its technology blockade.

In response, homegrown firms have attempted to develop alternatives to American silicon. The Shanghai-based contract chipmaker has succeeded in advancing its production technology two generations this year to 7-nanometers, though industry experts caution that may not be based on the same standards employed by far larger rivals like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

SMIC has said sanctions hurt its ability to develop more sophisticated technologies. The company’s capability is severely curbed by its lack of access for instance to ASML Holding NV’s extreme ultraviolet lithography systems, which are required to make the most advanced chips.

The company said in a separate filing that Tudor Brown, the former president of Arm Ltd., has resigned from the board, confirming an earlier Bloomberg report. Zhao also resigned as an executive director, according to the company.

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