December 3, 2023

Chipmaker Infineon has picked Herbert Diess to chair its supervisory board, marking a swift return to a big German corporate role for the former head of Volkswagen.

Infineon said on Friday that two board members, including current chair Wolfgang Eder, would not seek re-election when shareholders next vote on February 16. That would make room for Diess and former Siemens executive Klaus Helmrich.

“Now is the right time for changes,” said Eder.

Infineon, whose largest customers are carmakers, has been one of the winners of the global shortage of semiconductors. Diess was ousted from VW in July after pressure from labour unions and shareholders over company strategy.

He became known for his skirmishes with VW’s powerful works council and his ambition to take on electric pioneer Tesla. The announcement of his new job comes as his successor, Oliver Blume, holds his first annual meeting with VW investors in Berlin.

“[Infineon] increasingly plays a role as facilitator of the solutions for major, global tasks,” said Diess. “Accompanying Infineon on this journey is a tremendous motivation for me.” Diess previously served as a member of Infineon’s supervisory board between 2015 and 2020.

Infineon became the world’s largest supplier of silicon chips to the car industry two years ago, when it acquired US rival Cypress in a €9bn deal.

The German company has since benefited from unprecedented demand that has coincided with a bottleneck in the production of chips. Last month, it raised its target for “long-term” average revenue growth from 9 per cent to 10 per cent, and said it planned to build a new plant in the eastern German city of Dresden.

Infineon is not the only chipmaker expanding in Europe. The European Commission this year revealed a plan to spend €43bn to attract the world’s biggest chipmakers to set up factories in the region, amid concern over access to the key technology.

US rival Intel has pledged to invest €33bn in the bloc, including €17bn for a large plant in Germany. The EU is also trying to lure TSMC, the world’s biggest contract chipmaker, to build large-scale plants.

Infineon’s chief executive Jochen Hanebeck is also new to the top job, having taken over from Reinhard Ploss earlier this year. He said Diess and Helmrich were “proven experts on the major topics that will determine the future of our business”.

The company’s main business is everyday power and sensor chips but it also makes radiation-hardened power parts for Nasa and other agencies, most recently for the James Webb space telescope.

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