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Newport Wafer fab calls in receivers after banks call in parent's debt

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Newport Wafer Fab Ltd (NWL) has become the latest UK-based chip plant to be threatened with closure by the intense competition in the semiconductor market. NWL went into administrative receivership last week -- administrator Price Waterhouse will run the company while it seeks a buyer. The chip maker, the largest independent foundry in Europe, claimed the decision to call in Price Waterhouse had been made when banks called in loans owed by NWL's Hong Kong parent, QPL International Holdings. The news follows concern over the future expressed last month when it emerged that NWL was considering a raft of jobs cuts (see NWL cuts could affect Wales). At that time, chief executive Steve Byars said the business was "fundamentally sound". That statement, plus a recent cash injection of £230 million, suggests the closure is more about QPL's problems than the plant's. NWL's plant currently employs around 550 people. It runs 1.5-micron and 0.35-micron CMOS processes and an 8in wafer line. NWL was formed in 1992 out of QPL's buyout of a former Inmos plant. ®

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