Quake pushes Freescale to shutter Sendai factory early

The factory will close nine months ahead of schedule due to heavy earthquake damage

Freescale Semiconductor won't reopen a seriously damaged chip factory in Sendai, northern Japan, the company said Wednesday.

The plant had been due to close at the end of the year, but the damage suffered to the facility during the magnitude 9.0 earthquake of March 11 and continued disruption to basic infrastructure has pushed the company to abandon the factory nine months ahead of schedule.

"The ongoing safety concerns, damage to infrastructure and other basic services in the region, compounded by numerous major aftershocks, prohibit Freescale from returning the facility to an operational level required for wafer fab production in a reasonable time frame," the company said in a statement.

The factory produced microcontrollers, analog integrated circuits and sensor products. Freescale said it had already begun building up inventories of these chips in anticipation of the closure of the Sendai plant at the end of this year. The company will rely on that stock and work with customers on transitioning production to factories in Texas and Arizona.

The factory employed around 600 workers, none of whom were injured in the earthquake. It is located 25 kilometers from the coast and not impacted directly by the subsequent tsunami that followed the massive quake.

Freescale's decision brings to an end chip making at the factory, which opened in 1987. The plant was originally a joint venture between Toshiba and Motorola and was acquired by Freescale in 1999.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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