ASML is a relatively low-profile company, especially with regard to the scant amount of Chinese-language content available.

After the “photolithography machines” became a hot topic, many self-media outlets repeatedly plagiarized and speculated with limited information. My own articles have also been cut and spliced in various places, but various arbitrarily drawn conclusions are not entirely reasonable.

Today we’ll have a brief Q&A session, and also take this opportunity to give a sneak peek into the upcoming translated book “The Litho Giant: The Rise of ASML” (tentative title).

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Question 1: Is ASML a subsidiary of Philips?

Answer: No, it is not. Philips sold half of its shares when ASML went public in 1995, and then sold approximately 20% of its shares in 1997 and 2000. In 2004, Philips sold the remaining 2.8% of its ASML shares.


Philips did not believe that ASML would be very successful in its early years and only tried to fulfill its obligations as a major shareholder for a long time. In 2000, Philips almost completely sold its shares due to the bursting of the dot-com bubble. In 2001, ASML’s sales plummeted by 40% and the company had to make significant staff cuts.

In “The Battle of Liphography”, it is mentioned that one of the purposes of ASML’s last-ditch effort to acquire SVG was to enter Intel’s supply chain. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, Intel cancelled an order worth up to 100 million US dollars (at the time, the price of a DUV lithography machine was approximately 10 million US dollars).

The American government’s obstruction of the acquisition of SVG is justified. ASML immediately shut down SVG’s i-line and DUV product lines after the acquisition, signaling the exit of American manufacturers from mainstream lithography competition.

In 1989, Nikon attempted to acquire the leading global photolithography company of the 1970s, Perkin-Elmer. However, despite strong opposition within the United States, Perkin-Elmer ultimately sold its photolithography product line to SVG.

In 2001, Nikon sue ASML for patent infringement and demanded a sales ban in the United States, also attempting to prevent the then-largest semiconductor giant Intel from switching to their competitors. The case was settled three years later, with ASML and Carl Zeiss jointly paying a staggering $145 million in licensing fees.

At the start of the new century, ASML seemed to be in a very bad situation, but two bright spots were hidden:

The first TWINSCAN dual-stage lithography machine was delivered to TSMC in 2001.

In 1999, the United States granted special approval for ASML to participate in EUV LLC, which was established in 1997, while Nikon did not.

The former, together with immersion, established the technology advantage for ASML over Nikon.

The latter ensured that ASML expanded its monopoly advantage 15 years later.

In fact, Nikon began researching EUV with Hitachi in 1991, and even NTT started in the 1980s. Countless leading institutions have paved the way or acted as stepping stones during these thirty years.

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Question 2: It is said that ASML is just an assembly factory, backed by a combination of high-tech from various Western countries?

Answer: This is a good question, and difficult to answer. ASML themselves acknowledge that outsourcing is their preferred method, but it can be seen that Dutch contribution is the highest, except for the most essential optical components.

There are many blogs outlets speculating that the Netherlands only accounts for 10% of the supply chain. However, based on the official diagram below, 80% of ASML’s supply chain is in Europe, with 41% located in the Netherlands.


Of ASML’s 5000 suppliers, 1600 are located in the Netherlands.

Approximately one-fifth of ASML’s employees are located in the United States, and many of its technologies also originate from the United States, making it difficult to ignore US government restrictions. However, 80% of ASML’s current business is located in Asia, with 12% of sales in mainland China.

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Question 3: Are TSMC, Samsung, and Intel all shareholders of ASML?

Answer: Strictly speaking, the answer at present is also negative.


The statement of “Because TSMC is a shareholder of ASML, so…” that is fantasized by the self-media is not valid.

The story goes like this:

In the article “What is hindering 18-inch wafer production?”, I mentioned that 2011 was when G450C was established. ASML had to compete in two production lines, 18-inch lithography machines and EUV, but there wasn’t enough money. Moreover, the risks associated with EUV were huge, and the probability of producing a lot of scrap metal was also not low.

Therefore, in 2012, ASML proposed a customer investment plan, offering 25% of its shares for joint investment by its major customers. At that time, ASML’s market value was only 20 billion. It is important to note that this was actually a venture capital initiative initiated by the then financially struggling ASML, rather than being initiated by the three major players.

Intel became the first to subscribe to 15%. However, 10% of that is an investment in 18-inch wafer lithography machines, while only 5% is an investment in EUV.

TSMC subscribed 5%, while Samsung hesitated for a while and only subscribed to 3% (abandoning 2%).

Obviously, the three giants didn’t have high expectations for EUV at the time. The technical difficulty was just too great. In fact, after ten years of development, they had only produced a problematic prototype, which was almost the most breakthrough thing that humans had ever done in terms of pushing limits.

This investment was most likely a gesture of goodwill towards ASML. TSMC hastily sold all of its shares once the 2.5-year lock-up period ended. This was five years ago when EUV lithography machines were still not quite functional.

Due to difficulties in producing 18-inch wafers, Intel lost interest in investing and subsequently reduced their investment by half every 2-3 years. Currently, they have sold all of their shares (as mentioned in their financial report).

Samsung was probably the most skeptical of EUV back then, so they invested the latest and subscribed for the least. In 2016, Samsung reduced its holdings by half, leaving only 1.5%. However, interestingly, Samsung still has a good chance of holding this 1.5% now and is the only investor who benefited from ASML’s stock price increase by 7 times. (Because holdings below 5% do not require disclosure)

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Finally/In the end.

After the hard work by the People’s Posts and Telecommunications Publishing House, the book “Giant of Lithography: The Rise of ASML” with a thickness of over 500 pages is finally going to be published.

However, isn’t it exactly what we want to see now, how to struggle through the shortage of manpower, money, skills, and customers?

Today, ASML’s market value exceeds the sum of that of Philips, Airbus, and BMW, which surely came as a surprise to many. Indeed, success of a company is rarely replicated, while failure is often copied.

There are far more failure stories than success stories in this book, and they cannot be found elsewhere. This is one of the reasons why I like it.