Abu Dhabi government fund may be shopping GlobalFoundries

The investors from Abu Dhabi who funded GlobalFoundries' expansion may be ready to tap out. A Bloomberg report citing "people familiar with the matter" says the Abu Dhabi sovereign fund, Mubadala Development Company, is exploring a possible sale of GloFo and has been in talks with potential suitors.

GloFo competes with firms like TSMC and Samsung in the silicon foundry business, making chips for a range of customers—still including AMD, along with a number of others. Earlier this year, GloFo bought up IBM's microelectronics business, giving it ownership of a world-class R&D operation.

GlobalFoundries got its start about seven years ago, when AMD spun off its manufacturing arm into a separate company. In the months that followed, entities owned by the government of Abu Dhabi took control of it. Eventually, the investors from Abu Dhabi consolidated silicon fabs formerly from multiple firms, including AMD and Chartered Semiconductor, into the company known as GlobalFoundries. What seemed like virtually unlimited funding from Abu Dhabi's oil wealth made GlobalFoundries one of the largest contract chipmakers in the industry, despite the firm's repeated troubles with deploying new process technologies and the resulting, too-frequent reshufflings of its executive leadership.

The report cites the slump in oil prices, a reality that is squeezing the Abu Dhabi government's finances, as the motivation behind the decision to explore a sale. The sale of GlobalFoundries could scuttle the country's long-term plan to bring chip manufacturing to its own soil as a way of reducing its economy's reliance on oil revenues. It could also, potentially, bring more consolidation to the chipmaking game, if firms like TSMC and Samsung decide to pursue an acquisition. That's just speculation, though, and we don't yet know much about this possible sale. We'll have to wait and see what develops.

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