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Russians acquire IBM’s chip manufacturer

The AK Invest Group financed by the state Vnesheconombank has acquired the French microelectronics manufacturer Altis from IBM and Infineon. AK Invest is headed by Vladimir Simonov, the former director general of the Russian Agency on system administration (RASA). The former Oboronprom’s director Denis Mantourov actively facilitated in receiving funding for the transaction.

Late in August 2007 the IBM and Infineon Technologies companies announced to have sold their joint enterprise Altis Semiconductor to the Swiss company Advanced Electronic Systems AG (AES) supervised by the Russian mysterious holding GIS (Global Information Services). Financial terms of the transaction were not announced, as the buyer was a private firm. Russian enterprises engaged in microelectronics denied their affiliation with GIS.

According to the interview of the AK Invest’s CEO Vladimir Simonov published on the website of the Electronics magazine, the company ‘made the necessary arrangements to acquire Altis together with the shareholders GIS and Vnesheconombank’. The transaction charge is not announced, but earlier experts estimated it at about $450 million. CNews was unable to get in touch with Vladimir Simonov. Vnesheconom bank was not able to provide any commentaries, when the article was prepared for publication.

That is not the first time the state corporation Vnesheconombank has been funding such a large-scale project in microelectronics. In late April 2008 CNews reported the Angstrem-T Company secured a ˆ815 million credit facility with Vnesheconombank to finance the acquisition of the AMD factory. A 100% stake in Angstrem-T served as bail.

The market participants questioned by CNews have never heard about the AK Invest Company. However, Vladimir Simonov is an experienced official. He is known as an old fried of Ilia Klebanov, the current plenipotentiary representative of the president in the North-West Federal District and former minister of industry, science and technologies. In 1998 Mr. Klebanov occupied the post of vice president of the Russian government, while in 1999 having been appointed the defence industry supervisor, he founded the Russian Agency on management systems. Vladimir Simonov was appointed director general of the given agency.

The former director general of RASA Vladimir Simonov persuaded the officials to acquire the IBM’s microelectronics enterprise
The former director general of RASA Vladimir Simonov persuaded the officials to acquire the IBM’s microelectronics enterprise

Earlier, Mr. Klebanov and Mr. Simonov were engaged in establishing the holding Russian Electronics that unites electronics manufacturers of primary important for the state. Moreover, for some time Mr. Simonov was a member of Angstrem’s board of directors, Elma’s CEO and deputy chairman of the Federal Fund to develop electronics.

In April 2004 Vladimir Simonov left RASA. It was reported that he left ‘at his request for being offered another post’. Sources in RASA unofficially stated then Mr. Simonov was offered a post in electronic industry.

According to Vladimir Simonov’s interview, the mentioned above transaction was concluded due to ‘the firm and consistent position’ of the Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Energy and the minister Viktor Khristenko, as well as his deputy Denis Mantourov (former head of Oboronprom, - CNews’ note). According to Mr. Simonov, they persuaded the supervisory board of Vnesheconombank ‘to thoroughly study the proposal of GIS stakeholders and the Ministry of Industry and Energy and to finance the transaction’.

‘Altis manufacturers the widest range of products in Europe, - says head of AK Invest. - The period to launch new products into production amounts to about 45 days. The given period includes creation of mask plates. The Toppan Photomasks Company, the world leader in developing and producing photo masks Altis has been interacting with for many years, is operating in the technopark close to Altis. Furthermore, Altis has a perfect analytical center equipped with the latest test equipment. The center operates independently of the factory and tests not only the products but chips produced by IBM, Infineon and others, who turn for help. Thus, the center is a unique test site for IBM and Infineon design teams’.

The next is the project with one of the Russian partners to establish together with Altis full scale production using 90 nm technology, and later on 65 and 45 nm at 300 mm diameter wafers in Russia, says Mr. Simonov. He also tells in the coming months Altis stakeholders together with interested Russian partners intend to approve the development concept for an international design center.

Market participants are positive regarding Altis acquisition by the Russians. ‘If Altis becomes a Russian enterprise, then it is of interest to us in terms of cooperation, - says Anatoly Sukhoparov, director general of Angstrem-T. - That is both the opportunity to train personnel and to enter foreign markets’. Mr. Sukhoparov does not see any competition between Angstrem and Altis: ‘We have absolutely different markets and customers’.

Sitronics that owns the Micron factory and is waiting for the government resolution to finance construction of 65-45 nm enterprise emphasizes the given event proves the attitude to technology industries has changed. Businessmen now understand the key role of microelectronics in hi-tech development in Russia. According to Karina Abagyan, head of marketing department at the Research Institute of Molecular Electronics and Micron, the fact that Russian companies are ready to invest into microelectronic enterprises abroad to get access to new technologies proves dependence on resourced is decreasing.

According to Ms Abagyan, the difficulty is that it is rather complicated to manage an enterprise located in France from Russia for high losses: ‘so the sector leaders are gradually transferring their production to Asian countries. The key issue is whether the new owners will be able to manage cost of production. That is not a simple task for high pressure on behalf of French trade unions’. Ms Abagyan believes it is vitally important for a large and influential state to have its own microelectronics: ‘intellectual property, equipment, and personnel should be accumulated inside the country’.

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  Date of issue: 28.05.2008  


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