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Report: Taiwan scotches chipmakers' merger plan

Taiwan government rules out state-backed consolidation of memory chipmakers. New government-backed entity will focus on acquiring technologies and tapping existing plants.

Taiwan's economic affairs minister has retreated from previous statements that suggested a merger of the country's ailing memory chipmakers was likely, saying it's "too complicated," according to reports.

Instead, Taiwan Memory Co., the new government-backed entity, will focus on acquiring technologies and tapping existing manufacturing plants in Taiwan, according to a Bloomberg report.

Economic affairs minister Yiin Chii-ming and John Hsuan, a former United Microelectronics Corp. executive who was appointed by the state to oversee the formation of Taiwan Memory, are also saying that the scale of the aid plans will be pared back, Bloomberg said. This is a departure from previous statements that suggested a massive consolidation of the six loss-ridden memory chipmakers was likely.

"It is wrong to assume we would take in these companies with all their debts and problems," Bloomberg reported, citing an interview with Chen Chao-yih, head of the economic ministry's industrial development bureau. The six companies have combined debt of about $11 billion.

Taiwan's memory chipmakers lost a combined $12.5 billion in 2007 and 2008, highlighting the dire straits--including bankruptcies, widespread plant closings, and layoffs--that the memory chip industry is in worldwide.

The six companies are: Nanya Technology, Inotera Memories, Powerchip Semiconductor, Rexchip Electronics, ProMOS Technologies, and Winbond Electronics.