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Foxconn - the biggest name you've not heard of

by Tarinder Sandhu on 11 October 2005, 13:32

Tags: Foxconn (TPE:2317)

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Foxconn - who is it?

Foxconn Technology -the biggest name you've not heard of

If we told you that a certain computing giant had a group turnover of over £8 billion in 2004, employed over 190,000 people globally, and is a world leader in what it does, which companies would come to mind? Most would think along the lines of AMD or Intel; instantly recognizable names that even non-PC literate can identify with. However, the company we're talking about it Foxconn. Ring a bell? No? You're not alone.

Foxconn produces a staggering number of motherboards, CPU sockets, enclosures, system cooling devices, cables, connectors, and, really, anything and everything to do with PCs. In that context, Foxconn is probably the largest PC equipment manufacturer that you don't really know a lot about. We thought it was high time to set that record straight, so we took up the opportunity of meeting up with the movers and shakers at Foxconn's U.K. office, to see what the company has in store in the near future.

History

A little history, if you will. Foxconn Electronics is actually the trading name and subsidiary of another company whose name may well not have crossed your lips. Hon Hai Precision Industry Ltd., formed in 1974 by Terry Gou (current chairman and billionaire!), Foxconn, a Taiwanese company at heart, has grown into global company, with production operations liberally spread around Asia, Europe, and North America.

It is the world's largest producer of OEM motherboards, providing boards and chassis for, amongst others, Dell. A couple of large-scale production facilities, and we mean large in the way that Bill Gates is rich, in China churn out millions of motherboards a month that eventually end up in white-box PCs or to recognised system integrators. These factories are so large that entire towns are built around them, complete with schools and hospitals. Employees work in shift-rotation patterns that keep the machinery chugging away day and night. Coming back to market reach, Foxconn, as it happens, also manufactures motherboards for well-known motherboard makers, although getting names out of its U.K. P.R. arm was akin to blood from a stone.

Continuing the theme of being grand, Foxconn also happens to be the second-largest producer of PC-based coolers, and its chassis business is certainly not to be sniffed at. Due to the economies of scale derived from being so big, it's diversified somewhat and manufactures LCD panels for well-known companies, provides mobile phone components to Nokia (and has now become one of its major production partners), and counts the likes of Apple, Sony, Dell, and Cisco in its list of OEM customers. In short, it's a big, big firm that controls production for a large chunk of the PC market.

Links with the U.K.

Hon Hai, Foxconn's parent company, has well-established links with the U.K. Back in 1998 (which seems an age in the PC terms) Hon Hai opened up a state-of-the-art production facility in Renfrew, Scotland, charged with manufacturing PC enclosures under the brand name of Foxteq. Creating around 500 jobs over a period of years, the plant provides chassis to OEM customers who then affix their own badge. Dell being an obvious example.

Following on from that, Foxconn took the decision to restructure the way that it liaised with its customers here in the UK. Talking about motherboards, the general model adopted by all the big manufacturers is to ship (literally) their motherboards from the manufacturing plants in the Far East (usually China) into a European hub (usually Holland) and then from there on to waiting customers across Europe, be it system integrators or the retail channel.

September 2004 saw Foxconn open a dedicated UK sales office and storage facility located in Bletchley, Milton Keynes. The aim was to be have decent levels of Foxconn stock located in the here, ready for dispatch at the drop of a hat. This is where yours truly and our editor-in-chief, David Ross, turned up on a sunny Friday, to find out what how Foxconn intended to drum-up further business in the upcoming months and years.