SGS-Thomson Microelectronics said it maintained its lead last year in supplying semiconductor chips to the smart card market.

The French electronics company said its $222 million of smart card sales, on more than 100 million chips shipped, accounted for 43% of a $515 million market.

SGS-Thomson produces the smart card chips in Rousset, France, Agrate, Italy, and Carrollton, Tex. Additional nonvolatile-memory card production takes place in Catania, Italy, and Phoenix. A new plant in Rousset is to start production in 1999 with capacity for a billion smart card chips a year.

The company said the biggest market for chip card applications this year is mobile communications, at 41%, followed by the financial sector at 38% and governments at 19%. The remaining 2% are in the "emerging market" of transportation.

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