By The Financial District
ASML'S Bet On China Busted As Employee Steals Key Secrets
In the 10 years that Peter Wennink has run ASML Holding NV, China has gone from a rounding error to the chip technology company’s third-biggest market.
Photo Insert: ASML’s chief executive officer has been steadfast in defending the company’s business in China.
After new revelations about data theft linked to the country, questions are now mounting over the risks associated with that growth, Cagan Koc reported for Bloomberg News. ASML’s chief executive officer has been steadfast in defending the company’s business there.
Even after ASML’s own lawyers argued in court that ex-employees stole intellectual property as part of “a plot to get technology for the Chinese government,” the Dutch company publicly downplayed the issue. It suggested it wasn’t a victim of espionage but of rogue Silicon Valley staffers “who had broken the law to enrich themselves.”
Amid new efforts by the US and its allies to thwart China’s access to semiconductor technology, the disclosure on Wednesday that a former employee took technical information could spark even tighter controls on ASML.
Caught in the middle of the escalating political tensions, Wennink has tried to protect a key source of growth, arguing that clamping down could eventually push Beijing to develop its own advanced chipmaking machines.“Wennink is not happy,” said Alexander Peterc, an analyst with Societe Generale.
“All he wants is more customers buying their kit, especially if he’s invested into sales and distribution capability in a country such as China.”
At stake is the potential for Beijing to siphon off key technology for systems that can make the world’s most advanced chips. No other company has mastered the technology of burning the complex patterns that give chips their function onto disks of silicon the way ASML has.
The company is so crucial for the chip industry that it controlled more than 90% of the $17.1 billion global market for lithography equipment as of 2021, according to research firm Gartner Inc. Its near monopoly on the most advanced lithography systems makes it a critical cog in the industry and a target for spying.
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