• Kyodo

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Major chipmaker Renesas Electronics Corp. said Tuesday that full-scale semiconductor production at one of its plants hit by a fire earlier this month could resume in June.

Renesas President and CEO Hidetoshi Shibata said in an online news conference that the company aims to partially resume production at the Naka plant in Ibaraki Prefecture in late April, but that it will take up to two months to bring its output to the level before the fire.

The March 19 fire has fueled concern amid a global shortage of semiconductors, especially those for vehicles.

As of 2019 Renesas was the world’s leading provider of microcontrollers, chip products used in vehicles to control power units, with a 31.4% global market share, according to research firm Gartner Inc.

Shibata said the Naka plant will continue to supply its products stored at the plant to clients until late April, while resuming production after replacing chip-manufacturing machines damaged by the fire.

The president said the company would outsource the making of semiconductor products to make up for lost output, but that its supply was expected to fall short of demand for at least one and a half months from late April after shipping all stocks.

“We will make efforts to minimize the negative impact on industries after considering various factors,” said Shibata, indicating that the company would prioritize chip supply to automakers.

Industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama told reporters Tuesday that the ministry has asked a Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturer to produce chips to cover the lost output on behalf of Renesas.

“The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will make all-out efforts to help recover production at the (fire-hit) plant,” said Kajiyama, adding that the ministry has been in talks with some chip-making equipment manufacturers to support Renesas.

Chips have been running short globally due to surging demand for use in digital products, such as smartphones and video game consoles, with the recovery in the world economy following the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The crunch has forced automakers worldwide to cut production.

Semiconductors are increasingly used in cars, from sensors to emissions controls and video displays.

Major Japanese automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., have slashed output at their factories around the world due to the chip supply crunch.

Renesas also said the partial suspension of output due to the fire is expected to cut its sales by between ¥17.5 billion and ¥24 billion.

At the Naka plant, plating equipment in one of the buildings that house production lines caught fire due to a power surge, with its clean room area sustaining smoke damage, the chip manufacturer said.

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