Abu Dhabi investor of chip giant GlobalFoundries sees exponential growth for the industry

Technology

The semiconductor industry is on track to record exponential growth over the next decade, according to the CEO of Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala, who said chipmakers are poised to play a “crucial” role in the global economy.

“It took 50 years for the semiconductor business to turn into a half a trillion-dollar business. It’s going to take probably eight to 10 years to double. And it’s going to double right after that, probably in four to five years,” Khaldoon Al Mubarak told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in an exclusive interview.

Mubadala is Abu Dhabi’s state investment fund and manages roughly $240 billion in assets. It is also a major shareholder of chipmaker GlobalFoundries, recently raising almost $2.6 billion in an initial public offering — one of the largest on a U.S. exchange this year.

“So, we take that, as one very important data point. You combine that with another very relevant data point … there’s [only] five foundry businesses, global foundry businesses, four of which are in Asia,” he added.

“One of which, Global Foundries has, I think, the unique differentiated platform of being in the United States, in Europe, and in Asia.”

Al Mubarak’s comments come as demand for chips continues to outstrip supply. The shortage has hampered production across several industries, ranging from cars to consumer appliances, personal computers and smartphones.

Some analysts and investors expect the supply crunch to persist through to 2023 at least, while others are more bullish.

GlobalFoundries acknowledged in its IPO filing that the semiconductor industry will require “a significant increase in investment to keep up with demand,” even as the company anticipated the supply-demand imbalance could improve over the medium term.

The company is third in the market for semiconductor fabrication, behind Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) and South Korea’s Samsung.

Taiwan-based United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) and China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SIMC) are among the other top semiconductor foundry companies.

GlobalFoundries manufactures chips designed by its customers for use in contactless payments, battery power management touch display drivers and many other purposes. It has three U.S. plants — two in New York State and one in Burlington, Vermont — as well as a plant in Germany and another in Singapore.

— CNBC’s Saheli Roy Choudhury & Ari Levy contributed to this report.

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