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Dutch government scrambling to keep ASML in Netherlands




Around 40% of ASML’s 23,000 employees in the Netherlands are not Dutch

AMSTERDAM, Reuters) – The Dutch government has launched a campaign to ensure that the country’s largest company, semiconductor equipment maker ASML does not move operations to another country due to anti-immigration policies, newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Wednesday.

Dutch semiconductor sector startups are attracting an increasing amount of funding, the organisation set up by the Economic Affairs Ministry to strengthen tech entrepreneurship in the Netherlands said in its annual review on Wednesday.

Venture capital funding for Dutch chip startups grew for the fifth consecutive year in 2023, reaching 216 million euros ($234 million), the report by Techleap said, helped by increasing recognition of chip equipment maker ASML as Europe’s largest tech firm.

The Netherlands is also home to chipmaker NXP, and equipment firms ASM International and BE Semiconductor.

The report named two companies that received significant funding in the photonics sector – photonics chips use light rather than electrons to make transistors – Smart Photonics and Effect Photonics.

The paper said the ministries involved had dubbed the effort “Operation Beethoven,” citing unnamed sources. A spokeswoman for the Economic Affairs Ministry said it could not discuss policies toward specific companies. 

The report follows comments made by ASML CEO Peter Wennink in January when he warned that his company is highly reliant on skilled foreign labour after anti-immigration parties booked big gains in 2023 elections.

Multinationals Shell and Unilever departed the Netherlands in recent years following an unfavourable change in Dutch tax law.

A move to end a tax break for highly skilled immigrants is being rolled out under the current government, while moves to make it more difficult for foreigners to study at Dutch universities are under consideration.

“The consequences of limiting labour migration are large, we need those people to innovate,” Wennink said in January. “If we can’t get those people here, we will go somewhere where we can grow.”

Around 40% of ASML’s 23,000 employees in the Netherlands are not Dutch. Europe’s largest tech company sources parts from around the globe but currently assembles its machines in Veldhoven, Netherlands before shipping them to major computer chipmakers.

Though it would be difficult for the company to move its headquarters, De Telegraaf mentioned France as a possible destination for a company expansion.

Chipmakers across the globe are pouring billions of dollars in investment to set up new plants, encouraged by the rising use of semiconductors in everyday devices and generous subsidies from the United States and the EU aimed at keeping the West ahead of China in the race for cutting-edge technology.

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