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TSMC's founder to retire and hand reins to co-CEOs in June

[TAIPEI] Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co chairman and founder Morris Chang will retire in June next year, handing the helm of the world's largest producer of made-to-order microchips to the company's two co-chief executives.

Mark Liu will succeed Mr Chang as chairman while CC Wei will become chief executive officer when Mr Chang steps down, the company said in a statement that confirmed longstanding speculation about the heirs-apparent.

The announcement establishes a formal succession at the contract manufacturer of chips for Qualcomm Inc and Apple Inc - its largest customer. Mr Chang stepped down as CEO in 2013 after the board installed Mr Liu and Wei as his lieutenants. On Monday, Mr Chang left little doubt that he plans to step completely away from the corporation he founded in 1987.

"I will not be a director in the next term of the board of directors. Nor will I participate in any TSMC management activities after the annual shareholders meeting in early June, 2018," he said in a statement.

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Mr Liu and Mr Wei will be inheriting a company that in three decades established itself as the world's pre-eminent foundry or contract chipmaker, about 30 times larger than local rival United Microelectronics Corp. It spends billions on constant upgrades and new production facilities to keep pace with rivals like Intel Corp and Samsung Electronics Co using the most advanced processing technologies.

Its shares have surged 21.5 per cent this year thanks to projected demand for Apple's new iPhones and other products. That helped make Mr Chang a billionaire this year at the age of 86, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He owned 0.48 per cent of the business directly as of Aug 31, according to a filing to the Taiwan Stock ExMr Change. Its shares rose 1.9 per cent in Taipei Monday.

Mr Chang, one of the chip industry's most respected figures, spent most of his life in semiconductors. Born in 1931 in the coastal Chinese city of Ningbo, Mr Chang's earliest memories were of moving through a succession of cities as his family fled before the Japanese occupation and, later, civil war between the Communists and Nationalists. He passed through Hong Kong before heading to Harvard and then the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study mechanical engineering, laying the groundwork for his future career.

Growing chipset demand from China spells a major opportunity for TSMC. It's building capacity to meet the future demand it anticipates, not just from Chinese smartphones but also connected devices in the so-called Internet of Things. TSMC said last week it will build its first three-nanometer technology plant in southern Taiwan's Tainan.

"TSMC will proceed with the blueprint Chairman Mr Chang has laid out. Its leading edge in the foundry industry isn't going to Mr Change in the next three to five years," Taishin Securities Investment Advisory Co Vice President Huang Wen-ching said. "The succession shouldn't impact the stock or the fundamentals of TSMC." The task of ramping that up however will fall to Mr Wei and Mr Liu.

"The past 30-odd years, during which I founded and devoted myself to TSMC, have been an extraordinarily exciting and happy phase of my life," Mr Chang said in Monday's statement. "Now, I want to reserve my remaining years for myself and my family."

BLOOMBERG