China's Tsinghua Unigroup, which has been active in overseas semiconductor investment, is eyeing small and mid-sized South Korean chip firms with specialty solutions, a local report has said.
Tsinghua is in talks to buy Korean fabless, or semiconductor, firms that design chips without production facilities, such as Silicon Mitus, Map and Zinitix, according to Chosun Biz.
These firms are small but have specialty chips that they excel in power management, security, and Internet of Things (IoT).
The state-funded Tsinghua Unigroup, formed in 1988 by China's top natural sciences researcher Tsinghua University with the aim to develop commercial tech products, has been active recently in buying up high-tech semiconductors worldwide.
Beijing has identified the advanced memory chip sector as an area it wants to develop to advance its economy from low-value manufacturing to a high tech, high profit one.
Most components such as chips are either imported from abroad or designed using foreign technology.
Last year, Tsinghua's $23 billion bid for US chip maker Micron failed. Last month, it acquired a majority stake in compatriot memory chip giant XMC. It bought a 6 percent state in Lattice Semiconductor which makes programmable logic devices.
It is reportedly planning to spend $30 billion on acquisitions of high-tech firms this year.
Silicon Mitus, which specializes in power management integrated circuits (PMIC), was founded in 2007 with annual revenues of 100 billion won. Maps, founded by ex-Fairchild employees, is an expert in making chips for wireless charging and exports them to China and the US.
Zinitix develops chips for near field communications (NFC).
South Korean fabless firms have seen their profits decline in recent years due to over saturation of the market. Samsung and SK Hynix, the two largest semiconductor firms in the country, focus on memory chips and own their own factories for production. Samsung, the world's leader ship memory chip, unveiled this month a 32TB SSD.