The chairman of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) has resigned, citing personal health reasons, as mainland China’s largest and most advanced chip foundry pursues new capacity expansion initiatives amid a global shortage of the essential electronic component.
Zhou Zixue, 64, will continue to serve as executive director, according to SMIC’s filing on Friday. Chief financial officer Gao Yonggang has taken on the additional role of acting chairman. Gao has been with SMIC since 2009.
Shanghai-based SMIC said Zhou has no disagreement with the company or its board, and that there is not any information related to his resignation that needs to be brought to the attention of company shareholders, according to its filing.
SMIC did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Saturday.
Zhou took on the roles of chairman and executive director on March 6, 2015, when he replaced Zhang Wenyi who decided not to serve as a board member at that time because of his age.
Before joining SMIC, Zhou served as chief economist at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. He holds a master’s degree in engineering management from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in southwestern Sichuan province and a doctorate in economic history from Central China Normal University in the central province of Hubei.
Tensions between Beijing and Washington have prompted China, the world’s biggest market for semiconductors, to boost the development of its chip industry. The country’s goal is to achieve a chip self-sufficiency ratio of 70 per cent by 2025 from the current estimates of between 10 per cent to 30 per cent.
SMIC is the world’s fourth-largest chip foundry and China’s best hope at achieving self-sufficiency in semiconductors, an effort Beijing has sought to catalyse following sanctions from Washington that target advanced chip technologies.
The Shanghai and Hong Kong-listed company, however, has experienced intermittent boardroom shake-ups. The company has built up its management and technical expertise over the years by aggressively recruiting and generously rewarding former engineers from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chip maker.
In December last year, SMIC named semiconductor industry veteran Chiang Shangyi as vice-chairman and executive director, as well as a member of its strategic committee. Chiang, 75, previously spent nine years as head of research and development at TSMC before retiring in 2006. He had served as an independent non-executive director at SMIC from December 2016 to June 2019.
Initially, Chiang’s appointment did not go well. SMIC co-chief executive Liang Mong-Song attempted to quit over that appointment, according to his leaked resignation letter widely published in Chinese-language media. Liang, however, has remained in his position. It is not clear if his decision to stay had anything to do with SMIC’s move to quadruple his salary last year.
In July this year, SMIC vice-president of research and development Wu Jingang, who was once called a “core technical personnel” at the chip maker, resigned after 20 years, according to the firm’s corporate filing. It said Wu’s resignation did not have any significant negative effect on the company’s operations.
SMIC in June made good on its plans to offer top executives up to 23.6 million yuan (US$3.7 million) worth of shares at a 65 per cent discount, part of a talent retention scheme covering a quarter of the company’s workforce. The share reward scheme, unveiled in a company filing in May, covers as many as 4,000 employees, about 23 per cent of the company’s headcount.