A recent rumor published by ICsmart.cn suggests imminent layoffs at the Chinese branches of major technology companies AMD and Qualcomm. AMD is rumored to be downsizing its workforce in China by 300-450 employees, primarily in the Chinese Radeon Technologies Group (RTG) department. Qualcomm is also allegedly on the verge of reducing its workforce in China, in line with an adjustment plan due to economic uncertainties.
Diving deeper into AMD’s situation, the Shanghai R&D center has been at the forefront of AMD’s operations in China since 2006. The unit has been quite instrumental in designing and developing a plethora of technologies and products, including Ryzen processors and Radeon graphics cards. The layoffs seem to be concentrated around the Radeon Technologies Group (RTG), though it seems that the number of people to be laid off is an overestimate. AMD employed some 9,500 people as of December 22, 2022, so laying off 450 people in China is a major development. In fact, it would be a significant reduction even companywide.
AMD’s headcount is pretty lean, to put it mildly. The company’s rival Nvidia employs some 23,200 people as of 2023, whereas Intel’s headcount as of 2022 was 131,900. Laying off 300 – 450 people would have been a quite serious reduction for AMD. In fact, given the growth of its data center business, it would be logical to hire some additional people for this department. Furthermore, since AMD plans to take a chunk of the AI and HPC GPUs market, it would be logical to hire some extra people for this domain as well. Meanwhile, the company might be restructuring its RTG department, which might involve layoffs.
It should be noted that AMD’s influence in China extends beyond its own operations, indirectly fueling the emergence and growth of Chinese GPU startups. Numerous professionals and experts in the GPU industry, nurtured in AMD’s ecosystem, have become foundational pillars in China’s burgeoning GPU companies. These talents play substantial roles in companies like Bitmain Technologies, TianShu ZhiXin, and more, bringing with them extensive experience and expertise from their tenures at AMD. Meanwhile, the American company is not in the business of nurturing rivals in China, especially if it involves leaking its own IP. That said, it would be reasonable for AMD to reduce its operations in China while expanding them elsewhere. Yet, it remains to be seen where potentially affected AMD employees will end up and whether they form any new GPU ventures.
As for Qualcomm, its anticipated layoffs are rumored to be part of a broader strategy to recalibrate its business approach amid ongoing economic uncertainties. While AMD’s speculated layoffs revolve heavily around its RTG business unit, Qualcomm’s adjustments seem to navigate the broader uncertainties of the wireless tech industry in general and smartphones in particular.