UNISOC, a Chinese semiconductor firm that develops chipsets for mobile communications and Internet of Things (IoT), has closed 5.35 billion yuan ($814.6 million) in a new funding round as it aims to file for an initial public offering (IPO) application on Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style STAR Market by the end of 2021.
UNISOC, a subsidiary of Chinese state-backed tech conglomerate Tsinghua Unigroup, raised the colossal round from four existing shareholders including Shanghai’s state-owned capital manager Guosheng Capital; Country Garden Venture Capital, an equity investment arm of Hong Kong-listed property developer Country Garden; home appliance firm Haier’s affiliate Haier Financial Holdings; and Shenzhen-based W&W Fund Management.
Its IPO plan comes amid political support for the semiconductor industry as China seeks to cut the country’s reliance on foreign chipmakers following Washington’s crackdown on the use of American technology among Chinese companies.
According to an October 2020 report from market researcher Daxue Consulting, China is the world’s largest semiconductor market, consuming over 50% of products – both for internal use and eventual export. But domestic manufacturers were only capable of meeting about 30% of China’s demand.
To help lift homegrown chip supplies, UNISOC was created from a merger between Spreadtrum Communications and RDA Microelectronics, two key Chinese mobile chip developers established in the 2000s and were both listed on Nasdaq until Tsinghua Unigroup took them private in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
In the same space as larger industry leaders like California-based Qualcomm and Taiwan’s MediaTek, UNISOC is one of China’s biggest chipset providers for smartphones and IoT devices.
Its products cover mobile chipsets supporting communication standards ranging from 2G to 5G, and various chipset solutions in the fields of IoT, wireless connection, TV, satellite communications and beyond.
UNISOC’s clients are largely smaller smartphone makers, such as China’s Lenovo Group, electronics manufacturer Hisense, state-owned telecom firm ZTE Corporation, Samsung Electronics’ entry-level handsets, and Shenzhen-based Transsion, a smartphone maker largely unknown outside of Africa.
Meanwhile, Qualcomm and MediaTek mostly supply to Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, Samsung, and Xiaomi.
UNISOC currently operates from 17 technology R&D hubs and seven customer support centres around the world. It employs over 5,000 staff, 90% of which are R&D professionals, per its website. Its business spans 128 countries, serving more than 500 clients.