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The Netherlands is scrambling to stop ASML from moving its lithography business outside the country


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Why it matters: ASML is the largest manufacturer of photolithography machines, designed for etching intricate circuits onto silicon wafers to create advanced computer chips. It stands as the most highly valued European tech company, boasting a market capitalization of nearly $400 billion. Additionally, ASML represents one of the major business ventures in the Netherlands’ economy.

ASML is considering new hiring opportunities outside its home country, and the Dutch government is scared enough to study proper countermeasures to curb this concerning turn of events. As the world’s only supplier of extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) machines, ASML is concerned about recent policies from Amsterdam authorities aimed at restraining immigration.

According to the latest, unconfirmed rumors coming from the Dutch press, the government has even put together a secret taskforce known as “project Beethoven” to try to keep all of ASML’s business interests inside the Netherlands’ borders. In a recent interview, ASML CEO Peter Wennink said that the company could be forced to move some of its business to other countries – or even different continents – if the government makes hiring the most skilled people harder.

ASML can only grow if it can hire enough qualified workers, Wennink said. If skilled engineers are made to pay higher taxes in the Netherlands, ASML will be forced to go to Eastern Europe, Asia or the United States, even if the company would prefer to stay in its home country, the executive manager stated.

Besides hiring obstacles stemming from recent policy changes, ASML seems to be concerned about other local issues as well. The Netherlands is suffering from significant electricity grid congestion in industrial power supplies, and recent Europe-wide attempts to limit greenhouse (nitrogen) emissions could make ASML’s activity much harder.

Rumors say that ASML could consider expanding its operations in France, while its headquarters would likely stay where they are now (near the city of Eindhoven). The supposed existence of the project Beethoven task force seems to suggest that the Dutch government isn’t willing to accept the change. The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs said that it’s currently exchanging “views” with ASML about several issues, but cannot provide further clarifications about this specific matter (yet).

ASML’s business grew by 30 percent in 2023, the latest financial reports say, with total net sales of €27.6 billion and a gross margin of 51.3 percent. The company has amassed an order backlog of chipmaking machines that’s worth €39 billion, despite being affected by US sanctions against China and additional export controls enforced by the Dutch government.

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