COVID Outbreaks At Taiwanese Chipmakers Is Latest Threat To Global Supplies

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Jun 08, 2021 - 06:45 AM

The past few weeks have seen Taiwan's semiconductor industry hit by a variety of disasters that are creating more problems at a time when an international semiconductor shortage is creating problems around the world, including in the US, where a shortage of critical chips has hurt production of new vehicles. A worsening drought and rolling blackouts are also terrorizing the island.

Now, two more Taiwan tech suppliers have been hit by new clusters of COVID-19 cases, creating another disruption to production that's threatening to have an outsize impact on the global supply chain. According to Nikkei, King Yuan Electronics Co suspended all domestic production on Friday, while chip packaging and testing supplier Greatek Electronics and networking gear provider Accton Technology have also reported clusters among employees that have impacted production.

Both Greatek and Accton have production sites near a King Yuan plant in Miaoli County which has confirmed at least 263 cases as of Sunday (219 involving foreign workers mainly from the Philippines. Around 30% of the company's workers are migrants). Most of the cases have been linked to workplace outbreaks, with King Yuan workers accounting for half the infections. As a result, the company and local government officials are asking all foreign workers to shelter in place inside their dormitories (typically cramped environments).

King Yuan has finished testing and has so far reported 195 positive infections out of its workforce of more than 7,000 employees. The final number of cases will be finalized in a few days, a Miaoli health official told Nikkei Asia. The two other companies are still testing their employees.

Local health authorities have told the companies to ask all of their migrant workers to stay inside dormitories.

All the new cases prompted the government on Sunday to order King Yuan, which is a key supplier for Nvidia, Intel, MediaTek and many other top global chip developers, to stop all of its foreign laborers from working. The order was effective immediately, regardless of COVID test results.

"Foreign workers at King Yuan will have to stop working and begin quarantine for at least seven days. Only foreign workers with negative results of PCR tests after the quarantine can return to work," the CDC director general Chuang Jen-hsiang told Nikkei Asia. "We will have another meeting to decide whether or not King Yuan can resume production later today."

The company said it expects the two-day halt to reduce its expected revenue and output for June by up to 6%, while other down-stream companies that rely on King Yuan's product are also struggling.

King Yuan on Friday said that its planned 48-hour production suspension was estimated to reduce revenue and output in June by around 4% to 6%. MediaTek, a customer and a leading mobile chip developer, said its revenue will be hit by King Yuan's production halt.

"If our foreign workers could not come to work, that will further hit our production output for this month but the scale will need to be further calculated," a King Yuan spokesperson told Nikkei Asia.

Taiwanese public-health officials must decree the working environment to be "safe" before production can ramp back up to 100%. Greatek is testing 4K of its employees, more than 1K of whom are migrant workers, while Accton is also testing its 1,500-strong staff.

As of Sunday, 11 workers at both Greatek and Accton, had been confirmed to have contracted the virus. A majority of these were migrant workers.

"We haven't stopped our production lines, but the testing of all employees and some prevention measures will surely affect our production utilization and output," Chen Sheng, vice president and spokesperson of Greaktek, told Nikkei Asia.

Taiwan's Hsinchu Science Park, widely recognized as the most important hub for Taiwanese chipmakers, has set up a testing station and is testing around 4K out of the roughly 10K migrant workers who work in the area.

As a reminder, the chart below illustrates how production hiccups in Taiwan can quickly impact supply chains in the US and Europe.