Okmetic, UniSil buy epi plants

After several months of negotiations, Finnish wafer maker Okmetic has purchased Crysteco's epitaxial wafer plant in Allen, TX, for an undisclosed sum.

In a separate deal, test and prime wafer supplier UniSil Corp. has purchased a 23,000 sq. ft. epi plant in Santa Clara, CA, from LG Siltron. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. UniSil plans to begin operating the facility Sept. 1.

Crysteco, which began liquidating operations as part of a shutdown of the company earlier this year, had been seeking a buyer for the Allen facility. The company's other plant, in Wilmington, OH, is also nearing closure. Lyle Warren, former president/COO of the company, said an auction in July allowed Crysteco to sell off most of the Wilmington equipment. “We were pleased with the outcome of the auction,” he noted. All equipment will be removed, final customer product shipped, and the facility cleaned up and closed within two weeks, Warren said.

Under a purchase agreement, Okmetic Oy and its US subsidiary Okmetic Inc. have bought the Allen facility and some equipment and technology from the Wilmington facility. Asko Vehanen, newly appointed president of Okmetic Inc. and Executive VP of Okmetic Oy, said the Wilmington assets will be moved to Okmetic's Vantaa plant in Finland.

The Allen plant is expected to resume manufacturing operations next month, Vehanen said. The facility has been maintained in an idle state for about four months. Glenn Davis has been named plant manager for the Allen site; initially, about 20 employees will be based there.

Crysteco ceased operations in May, after wafer market pressures, the downturn, and other factors led to a consensual liquidation between shareholders and the bank. The company was founded in the early 1970s, and was bought out by a group of private investors several years ago. In addition to supplying epi and small diameter (three-, four-, five-, and six-inch) wafers, a small portion of Crysteco's business supplied silicon ingots.

Vehanen said the purchases will allow Okmetic to expand its product portfolio into the power semiconductor segment. A significant effort is underway to develop improved products based on the combined assets. The deal will also support Okmetic's expansion of operations in Finland, and give it a strong foothold in the US, where it has a significant customer base. “We hope and expect to have a signficant strengthening of business in this part of the world because of this transaction,” he noted.

For UniSil, the purchase of LG Siltron's epi plant marks the wafer supplier's entrance into the epitaxial wafer business. CEO Pat Curtis said having the ability to manufacture epi wafers in-house will allow UniSil to provide a full-range of products and services.

UniSil, like Crysteco and numerous other wafer suppliers, has been struggling with the overcapacity and pricing pressures plaguing the silicon market. Late last year, Philadelphia investment firm Dimeling, Schreiber & Park acquired UniSil, pulling the wafer maker out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. At the time, Curtis noted that the company would spend much of 1999 upgrading its wafer offerings.


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