Freescale to close fab damaged by Japan quake

Semiconductor specialist Freescale has announced that it will not be reopening its Japanese fabrication facility at Sendai, accelerating closure plans after the plant was damaged by the recent earthquake and tsunami.

The company announced its plans to close the outdated facility in April 2009, gradually upgrading its plants elsewhere to support 200mm wafers in order to take over the production handled at the Sendai facility.

Freescale's original plan was to scale down production pending a full closure in December, but the recent disaster has forced the company's hand, owing to extensive damage to the facility.

Constructed in 1987 as a joint venture between Toshiba and Motorola, the plant was originally part of Motorola's semiconductor products arm. When this was spun out into standalone company Freescale Semiconductor, the newly formed company acquired the facility in 1999 - along with its estimated 600 employees.

Despite its location, 15 miles inland from Japan's Pacific coast and around 80 miles away from the epicentre of the earthquake, damage at the plant was severe - although there were thankfully no fatalities among the company's staff.

"In this time of devastating loss for many of our Sendai employees, we want to do what we can to help and to return some sense of stability to their lives," claimed Freescale's chief executive Rich Beyer.

While that might seem an odd statement from a man who has just declared the entire workforce out of a job, Beyer continued: "To that end, Freescale will compensate them through a salary continuation for an extended period of time, coupled with a comprehensive severance package."

The temporary closure of the Sendai facility - now permanent - will not, the company has claimed, affect its ability to supply parts to its customers. After announcing its closure plans, Freescale worked to build up a buffer inventory of parts manufactured at the Sendai facility - and, cleverly, had stored the parts in other plants which were not affected by the disaster in March.

Much of the fabrication previously carried out at the Sendai facility will be pushed on to the company's fabrication plants at Oak Hill in Texas and Chandler in Arizona, while other facilities are upgraded to the required level.

Freescale provided no indication as yet of how much the premature closure of its Sendai facility will affect its yearly financial report.