Malaysia: Rising Global Hub for Semiconductor Backend Testing and Packaging in Supply Chain Shift

2023-08-23 Semiconductors editor

As reported by TechNews, a media partner of TrendForce, Southeast Asia and India, equipped with the advantages of demographic dividends, strategic geographic positioning, manufacturing capabilities, and rapidly growing economic markets, have undoubtedly emerged as the preferred destinations for the technology industry amidst the global supply chain transition prompted by geopolitical factors.

As supply chains actively seek production bases beyond China and governments introduce incentive programs and policy restrictions for localized supply, various Southeast Asian countries have become key hubs for different sectors. Vietnam has become a focal point for consumer electronics manufacturing such as laptops, watches, and headphones, while Thailand has become a preferred choice for automotive-related supply chains. Thailand and Malaysia host assembly bases for servers, and India is set to become a crucial hub for mobile phone production.

Apart from the movement of end-product assembling, the shift in the semiconductor supply chain has also garnered attention. With TSMC, Samsung, and Intel relocating wafer fabrication plants to the United States, Europe, and other regions, a significant cluster of semiconductor backend testing and packaging has been forming in Malaysia.

What Advantages Does Malaysia Offer to Attract Multinational Semiconductor Companies’ Investment, and What Is the Current Industry Landscape?

Firstly, Malaysia boasts higher education standards than neighboring countries. Among ASEAN nations, only Singapore and Malaysia employ the British legal system, providing a competitive edge for many companies’ location choices. Secondly, in terms of language proficiency, Malaysian citizens predominantly use English, Mandarin, and Malay, facilitating smooth communication with global enterprises.

Thirdly, Malaysia is home to two major ports—Port Klang and Port of Tanjung Pelepas—both ranked among the world’s top 15 ports, with substantial container handling capacity and global reach.

Lastly, the state of Penang stands as a semiconductor hub for Malaysia, having nurtured the semiconductor industry for several decades and holding a technological lead. Often referred to as the “Silicon Valley of the East,” Penang has primarily focused on producing chips for electronics, computers, and mobile phones. However, with the growing adoption of electric vehicles, the demand for automotive chips has surged. Concurrently, the green energy trend has propelled the need for solar panels and renewable energy sources. This optimistic outlook for the semiconductor industry has once again attracted numerous companies to establish facilities and expand production capacity.

Current State of Malaysia’s Semiconductor Industry

Looking at the recent dynamics of corporations over the past two years, the trend is evident that Malaysia is evolving into a center for semiconductor backend testing and packaging. Major global players have announced plans to establish or expand operations in Penang. Intel, for example, announced a $6.46 billion investment in Malaysia in 2021, focusing on advanced packaging capabilities in Penang and Kedah.

Texas Instruments declared its intent to construct semiconductor testing and packaging plants in Kuala Lumpur and Malacca, with a total investment of up to $2.7 billion. Infineon is investing $5.45 billion to expand existing facilities, producing silicon carbide and entering the electric vehicle sector. Bosch Group is investing $358 million in stages to strengthen its semiconductor supply chain position in Penang. ASE Technology Holding, also began construction on a new testing facility in Penang at the end of last year.

With the influx of semiconductor giants, Malaysia’s position in the semiconductor industry has become increasingly critical. The distinct production base trends, aligned with the strengths of various Southeast Asian countries, have become clear. The restructuring of supply chains and the transformation of production centers undoubtedly remain the focus and challenge for global companies.

(Photo credit: ASE)