Cree, Inc. has acquired Infineon Technologies’ RF Power Business for approximately $426 million, which strengthens its position in radio frequency (RF) gallium nitride on silicon carbide (GaN-on-SiC) technologies. The acquisition is expected to expand the Cree Wolfspeed business unit’s growth opportunity in the wireless market as the industry transitions to 4G and 5G networks. Cree spun-out Wolfspeed as a standalone business unit in 2015.
The Infineon RF Power Business unit has a leading market position in transistors and monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs) for wireless infrastructure RF power amplifiers based on both LDMOS and GaN-on-SiC technologies. GaN is capturing significant share in RF high-power semiconductors particularly in wireless infrastructure, according to ABI research. ABI’s 2017 RF Power Semiconductors report forecasts GaN’s share of RF power revenue to more than double between 2016 and 2022.
Cree Wolfspeed gains in several areas in addition to ownership of the RF Power operation’s intellectual property (IP) and technology portfolio. The acquisition adds GaN-on-SiC and LDMOS packaging and test operations in Morgan Hill, CA and Chandler, AZ; plastic packaging services in Melaka, Malaysia; and locations in China, Sweden, Finland and South Korea.
In addition, Wolfspeed has access to established customer relationships with top wireless infrastructure OEMs; adds 260 employees, contributing to its RF and packaging expertise; and delivers a broader product offering – silicon LDMOS and GaN RF packaged devices.
Cree’s strategic direction for the Wolfspeed business is to drive very high growth and strong margins. The company expects Wolfspeed to nearly quadruple its business by 2022. “The acquisition of Infineon’s RF power business is an important next step in that plan,” said Cree’s CEO Gregg Lowe, during a conference call. “It strengthens Wolfspeed’s already robust market positon in RF GaN-on-SiC technology; provides access to additional markets and customers; and importantly, adds packaging expertise and capability.”
Cree expects the acquisition to increase Wolfspeed revenue by about $115 million in the first 12 months. “This acquisition is clearly compelling from a strategic standpoint and is financially compelling as well,” Lowe added. “It increases Wolfspeed’s revenues by about 40 percent with strong future growth opportunity.
“We expect the business will grow rapidly in the coming years with the increased use of GaN in 4G and the near necessity for GaN in 5G networks,” Lowe continued.
With a focus on SiC and GaN products, Lowe said the Wolfspeed business “has a large multi-decade growth opportunity with the adoption of our technology in electric vehicles, solar energy, industrial, mil/aero and telecommunications. We have a scale advantage in SiC materials and we’re expanding that scale as we speak – doubling our capacity this year and continuing to significantly expand that capacity over the next several years, enabling the further adoption and growth for the entire industry.”
A big part of the win is now being able to supply both bare die and packaged solutions, significantly expanding Wolfspeed’s RF market opportunity. “It allows us to deliver more complete solutions that translates into more of the bill of materials as opposed to delivering die. We’re delivering a fully encapsulated solution,” said Lowe.
To support the transaction Infineon will supply LDMOS wafers and related components from its fab in Regensburg, Germany, and assembly and test services from the Melaka, Malaysia facility.
“The supply agreement will allow us to address the LDMOS portion of this business for years to come. The strategic intent is to take advantage of the growth opportunity that we see with GaN,” said Lowe.
Infineon and Cree have a long history of collaboration. In 2016, Cree planned to sell the Wolfspeed business to Infineon so it could focus on its core LED and lighting portfolio. But Cree was forced to terminate the sale due to national security concerns of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Most recently, Cree announced a long-term supply agreement to produce and supply its Wolfspeed SiC wafers to Infineon. The acquisition has no impact on supply agreements between the two companies.
“What we’ve seen so far is GaN-on-SiC is really taking off and that is what we’re good at. We’re focused on taking our base SiC capability and adding GaN to it and delivering solutions to the market that are compelling,” said Lowe. “There is a tremendous amount of adoption so our focus will be GaN-on-SiC for future growth.”
Cree spent $220 million in capex this year with the majority of the investment going to the expansion of its SiC crystal growth capability and wafer fabs, said Lowe. He expects capex “will remain relatively high” over the next couple of years.
To ensure a smooth transition, Infineon “will perform substantially all business operations [for the RF Power business] for approximately the next 90 days,” said Cree.