ASML Blocked from Shipping Equipment to China by Us, Netherlands Ahead of Export Deadline

tendata blogTrade Trends News

ten data blog03-01-2024

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Dutch chipmaking equipment maker Asmax (ASML) has been forced to cancel some of its shipments to China after some of its licenses were revoked, dealing a blow to mainland China's apparent efforts to stockpile related technology ahead of new restrictions.

In a statement released Monday, the company said, "The Dutch government recently partially revoked licenses for 2023 shipments of NXT:2050i and NXT:2100i lithography systems, affecting a small number of Chinese customers."

On Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin condemned the U.S. for its "hegemonic and bullying behavior," urging the Netherlands to abide by the principle of a fair market and fulfill its contractual obligations.

ASML, which already restricts Chinese customers from buying its more advanced extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography systems used to produce the world's most sophisticated chips, has a near monopoly on the machines, under pressure from the U.S.

However, since September, the Dutch equipment maker has been able to apply for licenses to ship some of its less advanced DUV systems to China before the new restrictions came into effect on January 1st. The Dutch manufacturer has been granted three such licenses.

Lithography tools are complex projection systems that are considered to be the most important equipment needed in the production of integrated circuits. China is considered to be years behind in this technology, and has so far struggled to close the gap with the leaders despite heavy government investment.

Chinese manufacturers have been importing and stockpiling a record amount of chipmaking equipment from abroad, before the Netherlands imposed restrictions and after the US widened export limits on DUV machines in October.

China imported 42 lithography systems worth $816.8 million in November, with Dutch and Japanese companies accounting for nearly all of those imports.

In particular, China's imports of key chipmaking lithography systems from the Netherlands soared 1,050 percent in value during the month. The Netherlands is the largest exporter of lithography machines, with almost all of them coming from ASML, although the company does not have the same share of the DUV market as EUV.

After a teardown of Huawei's latest 5G smartphone, the Mate 60 Pro, concluded that Chinese chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC) used DUV lithography to produce the device's advanced 7-nanometer chips, some experts are predicting more measures to limit China's access to such technology.

US President Joe Biden's administration has asked ASML to cancel several shipments of DUV systems to China weeks before the new rules take effect this month, Bloomberg said Tuesday, citing unnamed sources.

An ASML spokeswoman declined to comment on the timeline, but noted that the company is unlikely to receive new licenses for the NXT:2050i and NXT:2100i DUV machines in 2024.

"In recent discussions with the U.S. government, ASML has provided further clarity on the scope and impact of U.S. export control regulations," the device maker said in a statement Monday.

"ASML is fully committed to complying with all applicable laws and regulations, including the export control legislation of the countries in which we operate," it added.

China has been ASML's third-largest market after Taiwan and South Korea in recent years, but jumped to No. 1 in the third quarter of 2023, accounting for 46 percent of sales. That's up from 24 percent in the previous quarter and 8 percent in the first quarter.

Last November, ASML senior vice president and China president Shen Bo reportedly said the company was working to accelerate deliveries to China to meet demand for DUV machines. At the time, he added, the company had an order backlog of €35 billion ($37 billion) for 2021 and 2022, including orders from China.

On an investor call last month, ASML CEO Peter Wennink said the company had fulfilled less than 50 percent of its Chinese customer orders in the past two years, but that shifts in demand from other customers had created opportunities to fulfill more orders in China.

In its latest statement, ASML said it does not expect license revocations or the latest U.S. export controls to have a significant impact on its 2023 financial outlook, echoing similar sentiments expressed in its latest financial report.

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