ST-Ericsson In Wonderland
There’s something a bit Alice-in-Wonderland about the statements coming out of STMicroelectronics and ST-Ericsson.
Recently we had STMicro’s US boss saying that ST-Ericsson will produce a plan for getting out of its troubles “in the next period.”
Goodness knows what “next period” means, but the latest ST-E CEO has been in place since December 1st – three and a half months – and it seems lethargic still to lack a plan to deal with a company losing $1.50 on every sales $, with a collapsed Nokia – its main customer, with a debt of $800 million, with no obvious source of 28nm fab and with a delayed new product schedule.
These problems have been obvious to everyone for many months. But not, apparently to ST. Could it be that ST suddenly thought last November: ‘It’s going a bit pear-shaped at ST-E, perhaps we better get a chap to produce a plan. The debt’s only increasing at $200 million a quarter so there’s no hurry. Give him six months.”
Maybe the truth is there isn’t a solution.
ST’s US boss reassures us that: “They’re pushing hard to get the new products out. They are working every day.”
Then we get the ST-E CTO leaving and ST-E announcing that Ericsson would appoint the replacement not the ST-E board. This is despite the fact that STMicro’s US boss, when asked who was in the driving seat at ST-E – was it ST or Ericsson - replied: “ST is managing that for sure, because it’s the semiconductor expert.”
Then the latest announcement is that Soitec says that ST-Ericsson may use SOI wafers to make its chips.
“We are delighted that it (FD-SOI) could be adopted by ST-Ericsson for their next generation of products,” says Joel Hartmann of STMicroelectronics.
The ‘could’ makes the endorsement underwhelming.
ST-E fails to say what products or at what process generation SOI will be used. It does say SOI will deliver 35% better power consumption but doesn’t say in comparison with what.
Paul Boudre, COO of Soitec, says the FD-SOI technology is “years ahead of when alternative processes will be available from foundries.” However if ST-E can’t get FD-SOI from foundries, it will have to rely on Crolles for fab. Crolles’ capacity is 5,000 wafers a week and it has to be shared with other products. ST-E cannot live by Crolles alone.
What is coming out of ST and ST-E sounds half-baked.