China Is Still ASML’s Top Market Despite US Chip Gear Curbs

(Bloomberg) — ASML Holding NV’s sales to China were resilient in the first quarter despite curbs on exports of high-end chipmaking equipment to the Asian nation kicking in this year.

China remains ASML’s biggest market, representing 49% of system sales in the first quarter, the Dutch company said on Wednesday. By contrast, the proportion of sales from Taiwan more than halved, while the US accounted for 6%, down five percentage points from the prior quarter.

ASML, Europe’s most valuable technology company, has been caught in the crosshairs of the US government’s effort to stymie China’s progress in the chip industry. The Biden administration pushed the Dutch government to introduce restrictions on exports of ASML’s immersion DUV lithography machines, its second-most capable category of machinery, to China from Jan. 1.

china is still asml’s top market despite us chip gear curbs

China Is ASML’s Biggest Market Even After Export Controls |

As the US tries to restrict China’s access to cutting-edge chipmaking tools, Beijing has been buying up kit to make more mature types of semiconductors. ASML was never permitted to sell its most advanced extreme ultraviolet machines to China, but first quarter sales indicate that demand for older lithography systems has continued.

“The more you put them under pressure, the more likely it is that they will double up their efforts,” ASML Chief Executive Officer Peter Wennink said last year in a Bloomberg interview.

ASML has forecast that as much as 15% of China sales this year will be hampered by the export control measures. Still, ASML expects “strong” demand from China to continue for the rest of this year, Chief Financial Officer Roger Dassen said in an investor call after the earnings.

Meanwhile, the US has been pushing the Dutch government to stop ASML from servicing and repairing restricted chipmaking equipment procured by Chinese companies before the current sales ban.

“That has been a discussion between the two governments,” Wennink said on Wednesday during the investor call. “We are providing them with information and I think it’s all being taken into consideration,” he said. Currently, there’s no servicing restrictions on ASML’s installed base in China.

china is still asml’s top market despite us chip gear curbs

China Is ASML’s Biggest Market Even After Export Controls |

Strong sales in China comes amid a backdrop of slower demand from top chipmakers outside of China, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. as they navigate a slump in smartphone and computer sales.

Countries from Germany to the US have committed tens of billions of dollars in subsidies for chipmakers to build new wafer fabrication facilities, or fabs, in an attempt to ensure domestic supplies. South Korea this year unveiled plans for a $470 billion chipmaking hub. Many of these projects, which should boost demand for ASML equipment, are not yet under construction.

(Updates with quotes from ASML’s analyst call)

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