Questions remain over SemiFive's technology levels, however.
South Korean chip design house SemiFive is planning to acquire a fellow partner of Samsung Foundry Hanatec, TheElec has learned.
If the deal succeeds, Hanatec will become the third design house company within three years that SemiFive has acquired.
SemiFive will acquire enough shares for managerial rights over Hanatec, sources said. The pair’s talks have progressed substantially and they are discussing specifics, they said.
Hanatec is thought to be valued at around 20 billion won, they added.
SemiFive was founded by founding members of US startup SiFive, including CEO Cho Myung-hyun, also known as Brandon Cho.
The company designs chips using the open-source RISC-V instead of Arm.
In just a short time after it was formed, SemiFive had acquired Samsung Foundry partner Sesol Semiconductor. Afterward, it also bought logic design company Dashim.
Hanatec was founded in 2014 and became Samsung’s Design Solution Partner, its name for its foundry partners, in 2019.
Hanatec is considered to have technologies related to application-specific ICs and it had previously designed chips ranging from 14-nanometer (nm) to 5nm.
SemiFive had secured enough funds from its latest Series B round, the sources said.
It is aiming to secure 140 billion won from the round: Last year in its Series A round it had secured 43.1 billion won.
TSMC’s main design house company GUC had around 500 employees and annual sales of 500 billion won, the sources said.
By comparison, South Korean companies had at most around 200 employees and records far less in annual sales, they said. SemiFive wanted to scale and competence to be competitive in the design house market, they said,
However, another group of people familiar with the matter said SemiFive was growing fast in terms of size but its technology levels didn’t match this.
They also said the firm is yet to show sustained revenue and the interest in RISC-V has caused SemiFive to be overvalued in the market, they said.
For example, the people said Samsung Foundry recently gave orders for two projects, both in 5nm node, to its design house partners.
One is for automotive chips that will be supplied to a major customer in the US while the other one is for a modem chip used in smartphones, they said.
SemiFive had applied for both projects but failed to win any. The one for automotive chip was given to Coasia, Samsung’s largest design house partner. The one for modem chip was given to Wethemax, which was founded four years ago.
SemiFive had only won one major project from local conglomerates so far, they added.