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Renesas says to restore full capacity at fire-damaged chip plant by end-May

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FILE PHOTO: Renesas Electronics Corp's logo is seen a company conference in Tokyo
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TOKYO (Reuters) -Renesas Electronics Corp, a major supplier of automotive semiconductors, said on Monday it plans to restore lost production capacity at its fire damaged plant by end-May after restarting production on Saturday.

Renesas restarted the 300mm chip line at its Naka plant northeast of Tokyo four weeks after a fire caused by an electricity overload burned an area of 600 square meters (6,458 square feet), destroyed 23 machines and filled the sensitive clean room with smoke and soot.

Half of the Naka plant line's capacity should be restored by the end of April, although a ramp up to full production at the plant will still take around 70 days more, Renesas Chief Executive Officer Hidetoshi Shibata told an online press conference.

The production halt was a blow to automakers around the world already struggling to find enough chips amid surging demand from consumer electronics makers, forcing some such as Nissan Motor, Honda Motor to cut production as demand for cars was rebounding from a pandemic slump.

Renesas commands nearly a third of the global market share for microcontroller chips used in cars.

The company is also installing new fire extinguishing equipment in the factory to deal with any similar fires in the future, Shibata said.

The Japanese government has called on equipment makers to help Renesas restore production, with industry ministry officials asking companies at home and overseas to provide parts and machinery to Renesas.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Tom Hogue and Muralikumar Anantharaman)