Semiconductor industry isn’t spending big on scarce old-tech chips

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Global chip manufacturers are projected to pour about $146 billion into capital expenditures this year, a roughly one-third rise from the previous year and 50% higher than pre-pandemic 2019, according to Gartner Inc., a tech-market researcher. That investment is more than double the industry spending of five years ago.

But less than $1 of every $6 is earmarked for the so-called legacy chips facing the longest backlogs right now, Gartner estimates.

The small investment reflects how the scarcest chips—many sold for just a few dollars apiece—get made with older technology and equipment that requires less money to procure. But it also shows that many semiconductor makers are cautious about making multibillion-dollar bets on the needed chips given the slim profits and risk of falloff in demand.

Three firms—Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Samsung Electronics Co. and Intel Corp.—account for about…

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