To free financial resources for its primary business of silicon wafers, MEMC ELECTRONIC MATERIALS, INC. has signed a letter of intent with TOKUYAMA CORP. and MARUBENI CORP. to form a company to own and operate MEMC's granular polysilicon operation in Pasadena, Texas. The St. Peters, Missouri-based company acquired that business in mid-1995 and since has doubled capacity to about 1,500 tons. An expansion to nearly 3,900 tons is underway. Under the pending deal, which could close this spring, MEMC will turn the Pasadena plant over to the joint venture in exchange for a 40 percent interest in the new firm. Tokuyama, the world's second- largest producer of polysilicon, will contribute cash and technology and have a 45 percent share. Marubeni also will put up money for its 15 percent stake. MEMC, the top producer of silicon wafers outside Japan and the only non-Japanese maker of this product with manufacturing facilities in Japan (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 335, August 1997, p. 15), will enter into a long-term purchase agreement and a granular polysilicon licensing arrangement with the proposed joint venture. Because granular polysilicon improves the economics of producing larger diameter wafers, the market for this product is expected to grow as chip manufacturers migrate to 200- millimeter (8-inch) and 300-mm (12-inch) wafers.
The world market leader in synthetic quartz, SHIN-ETSU CHEMICAL CO., LTD., reportedly will build a plant in Freeport, Texas, where its SHINTECH INC. subsidiary has made polyvinyl chloride since 1974. News sources say that the company will spend $70 million on the complex, which will have the capacity to turn out 260 tons of synthetic quartz a year. That is equivalent to about 20 percent of the international market. However, demand for the material is increasing, particularly from manufacturers of wafer steppers used in the lithography phase of semiconductor production.
Under a four-year arrangement, SANYO SPECIAL STEEL CO., LTD., the world leader in the production of high-quality specialty steel bars, will provide technical assistance to REPUBLIC ENGINEERED STEELS, INC., the top U.S. producer of carbon and alloy high-quality engineered bars. The Himeji, Hyogo prefecture company will work with Massillon, Ohio-headquartered Republic, which also makes stainless steels, tool steels and remelted specialty steels at its 10 plants, in three main areas: rapid steel melting technology, ladle refining improvements and technology designed to increase sequential casting at the company's CAST-ROLL facility.
An exchange rate of ¥130=$1.00 was used in this report.