Applied Materials receives new subpoenas on China shipments

(Reuters) -A federal investigation into semiconductor equipment supplier Applied Materials involving China shipments has widened to other U.S. agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a company filing on Tuesday.

The filing said the company had received an SEC subpoena and another subpoena related to China shipments from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts in February. In November 2023 the Commerce Department also sent a subpoena “relating to certain China customer shipments”.

The company is under U.S. criminal investigation for potentially evading export restrictions on China’s top chipmaker SMIC, according to three people familiar with the matter, Reuters reported in November.

“I would call this the one, two, three punch,” said Deborah Curtis, a former U.S. official at the Commerce and Justice Departments, referring to the various agencies probing Applied Materials.

The company also said on Tuesday that it had received a subpoena in February from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, requesting information related to certain federal award applications this month.

Shares of the company were down 2.5% in trading on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney in Boston declined comment. The Commerce Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Applied Materials, the largest U.S. semiconductor equipment maker, is being probed by the Justice Department for sending equipment to SMIC via South Korea without export licenses, sources told Reuters in November. Hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment is involved, one of the people said at the time.

The company produced semiconductor equipment in Massachusetts, then repeatedly shipped the equipment from its plant in Gloucester to a subsidiary in South Korea, the people said. From there, the equipment went to China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), the people familiar with the probe said in November.

(Reporting by Harshita Mary Varghese; Editing by Pooja Desai)