Infineon, the German semiconductor group, wants to sell shares in its memory-chip unit on the New York Stock Exchange, marking the biggest offer by a European company in years.

The debut could net €1bn ($1.3bn) by late September, people close to the deal said, making it five times larger than a Swedish listing – and as big as Asian offers – recently seen on the NYSE.

The decision to list in the US comes as a surprise as Infineon executives had long eyed Taiwan or Japan, home to many of the biggest players in the sector, as the preferred markets to list.

People close to Infineon said recent memory-chip price rises were a strong case for listing in the third quarter – with the holiday months of July and August suggesting September as an appropriate time to float.

A liquid market with investors willing to put money into chip stocks such as US rival Micron persuaded Mr Ziebart to plump for an American rather than an Asian listing for Qimonda, they said.

According to Dealogic, Sweden’s Arlington Tankers raised $263m by selling shares on NYSE in late 2004. The five biggest recent foreign listings came from Asia and all fetched at least $1bn.

Recovering chip prices and lower production costs saw Infineon’s memory chip unit swing into profit in the first three months of the current year after reporting a string of loss-making quarters.

Wolfgang Ziebart, Infineon chief executive, said shareholders would now have “a better choice” between investing in the cyclical memory-chip market and the more stable business in logic chips found in cars.

While Mr Ziebart said details of the float had yet to be decided, people familiar with his thinking said it could net €600m-€1bn, with Qimonda pocketing most via a capital increase.

The valuation of listed US rival Micron Technologies suggested Qimonda could have a market valueof about €3bn-€3.6bn, with one-fifth to one-third of total shares in the freefloat.

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