This story appears in the November 2023 issue of Forbes Asia. Subscribe to Forbes Asia
This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of China’s Richest 2023. See the full list here.
After falling off the list in 2022, Yu Renrong, chairman of Will Semiconductor, returns with a net worth of $4.4 billion as investors bet on the company’s long-term potential. In recent years, the Shanghai-listed company, which designs chips for smartphones, cars and security devices, has aggressively pursued expansion by buying new businesses.
In March, it spent 1.2 billion yuan ($164 million) to acquire Chinese competitor, Beijing-based Silicon Internet of Things Technology, which designs chips for automobiles. That followed its 233-million-yuan purchase the previous August of the Chinese holding company of Osaka-based CerebrEX, which makes low-energy display chips. Will Semiconductor entered the business of integrated touch and display chips for smartphones with its purchase of a 70% stake in a division of San Jose-based Synaptics for $84 million in 2020. It spent $54 million to snap up the remainder a year later.
But the watershed for the fabless chip maker was its 2019 purchase of California-based competitor OmniVision Technologies, which valued the firm at 15 billion yuan. The deal propelled the company into the ranks of the world’s largest developers of CMOS image sensors—the chips needed to capture images digitally. According to France’s Yole Intelligence, OmniVision held 11% of the global market by revenue in 2022, after Sony (42%) and Samsung (19%).
Amid slack global demand, revenue for the first nine months dropped 2% year-on-year to 15.1 billion yuan. Net profit plummeted 83%, despite nearly quadrupling in the third quarter. Analysts expect Will Semiconductor will see improved profit margins by the end of this year and double-digit revenue growth in 2024 on rising smartphone sales. With overseas markets accounting for over 80% of revenue, Will Semiconductor could look to home for growth by strengthening ties with domestic brands, says analyst Eden Chung of Taipei-based consultancy TrendForce.
Yu, who has a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering, was a semiconductor engineer at China’s tech conglomerate Inspur, then worked in sales for an electronics firm. He cofounded Will Semiconductor in Shanghai in 2007.