Japan's Advantest says US executive Lefever to become CEO

FILE PHOTO: Illustration picture of semiconductor chips

By Sam Nussey

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan chip test equipment company Advantest Corp said on Wednesday its Chief Operating Officer Douglas Lefever, a U.S. citizen, will become CEO from April, with current Chief Executive Yoshiaki Yoshida becoming chairman.

Lefever, who became COO in January 2023 and previously served as CEO of Advantest America, joins a select group of foreign leaders of companies in Japan, which is known for its hierarchical and codified corporate culture.

He takes the helm at Advantest at a time of growing investor anticipation about the boost chip equipment makers may receive from investment in artificial intelligence, with the company's shares up 44% year-to-date.

"We've worked very hard to earn our position, particularly in the emerging areas of AI," said Lefever.

Advantest said last month it sees an improvement in the chip industry as inventories adjust and expects the memory tester market to reach roughly $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion this year, compared with about $1.1 billion in 2023.

"Semiconductor devices are increasing in their complexity as well and that industry is asking Advantest to play an... increasingly larger role in solving the associated test problems," Lefever said.

Advantest, which makes 96% of its sales overseas, along with other Japanese equipment and materials makers plays an important role in the global chip supply chain as governments around the world are moving to secure access to semiconductors.

Its shares closed flat on Wednesday after the announcement. Tokyo Electron's shares have gained 44% this year, with Screen Holdings up almost 60%.

(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Jamie Freed and Alexander Smith)