Latest quake rattles more nerves on Wall Street than in Taiwan

By Christine Lunday, SST Online editor

It was business as usual in the Hsinchu Science-Based Industrial Park — Taiwan&#39s chipmaking hub — after another earthquake rocked the region early Nov. 2.

The 6.9 magnitude tremor hit at about 1:53 a.m., and was strong enough to wake residents and rattle buildings, but did not cause any major damages, injuries, or significant power outages. Local press reports said the epicenter was located deep in Pacific Ocean waters, about 27 miles off the island&#39s southeast coast.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Hsinchu, said the quake was significant enough to trigger a procedural emergency response, which includes a temporary shutdown of lines, a series of safety checks, and equipment recalibration (if necessary) before production resumes. Any shocks registering 4.0 or greater on the Richter scale will trigger such a response, a spokesman at TSMC&#39s offices in the Science-Based park said. “Fortunately, the impact [from this latest tremor] is very, very small,” he said.

When it comes to earthquakes, chipmakers on the island say their greatest concern is loss of power. The devastating 7.3 magnitude quake that struck the island in September resulted in extended power outages in the Science-Based park, which is home to several hundred companies and the world’s top two foundries. A number of firms, including foundry UMC Group, say they are working with private power suppliers to secure a more robust supply of electricity in the park. “The real damage is not from earthquakes,” notes John Hsuan, CEO of UMC Group. “The real damage is from power failure.” Hsuan said he expects to eliminate long-term power supply problems by securing supply from a power plant in the park by next June.

Shares of many semiconductor and related stocks fell on news of this latest quake, the third significant tremor to rock Taiwan since September. But despite Wall Street&#39s panicky reaction, the quake elicited a rather low-key response in Hsinchu, where people and businesses maintained normal operations in and outside of the Science-Based park. SEMI Taiwan&#39s Hsinchu office said they hadn&#39t received any special requests or heard any special concerns on Tuesday. One newspaper ran a small report about the quake on the back page of its Nov. 3 edition, alongside an account of a local man charged with smuggling frogs, pythons, and turtles into Taiwan.


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