Bunsei Kure, president and chief executive officer of Renesas Electronics Corp.

Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Bunsei Kure, president and chief executive officer of Renesas Electronics Corp.

Japanese semiconductor company Renesas Electronics is in talks to acquire U.S. chipmaker Maxim Integrated in what could be close to a $20 billion acquisition.

A deal isn’t imminent and one may not happen, the people said, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Renesas has a market capitalization of about $20 billion, while Maxim is valued at more than $16 billion.

A transaction would continue a multiyear wave of semiconductor consolidation driven by scale efficiencies, increasing demand from car companies and the rising costs of chip fabrication. Renesas beat out Maxim in 2016 to acquire Intersil, a semiconductor company whose chips are used in mobile and infrastructure applications, for $3.2 billion. Now the companies could come together.

Maxim has tried to sell itself before in deals that fell apart. In 2015 it attempted to sell itself after holding talks with Analog Devices and Texas Instruments, people familiar with the matter said at the time. Those talks failed over concerns about valuation.

A spokeswoman for Maxim declined to comment. A spokesman for Renesas Electronics couldn’t immediately be reached for contact.

Consolidation in the semiconductor industry was particularly busy in 2015 and 2016, with seven transactions of $12 billion or more. After a slow start in 2017, with year-over-year deal volume down nearly 85 percent in September, Broadcom’s $103 billion hostile offer for Qualcomm in November has again made smaller chipmakers more urgently consider merging, one of the people said.