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US-based firm's workers on plane headed to meeting

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March 9, 2014 03:40 PM EST | AP

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Twenty employees of an Austin-based technology company on board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight were en route to a business meeting in China, a spokeswoman for the tech firm said Sunday.

The employees — 12 from Malaysia and eight from China —work at facilities in their respective countries that manufacture semiconductor chips, said Freescale Semiconductor spokeswoman Jacey Zuniga.

"We have several manufacturing sites in Kuala Lumpur and Tianjin, China. Those 20 employees were with those teams," she said.

The employees were aboard Flight MH370, which lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam after leaving Kuala Lumpur early Saturday morning for Beijing. The plane was carrying 239 people.

Zuniga said the news of the 20 workers and the missing plane has been difficult for the company and its employees.

"It's been a really tough weekend," she said.

The company has assembled a team of counselors for those impacted by the tragedy.

"We're really focused on our employees and their families and we're watching the latest developments like everybody else, waiting to hear more concrete news," she said.

Freescale Semiconductor has been developing microprocessors, sensors and other technology for the past 50 years. The technology it creates is commonly referred to as embedded processors, which according to the firm are "stand-alone semiconductors that perform dedicated computing functions in electronic systems."

The technology is used in a variety of things, including smartphones, appliances and automobiles.

The company has more than 18,000 employees and operates manufacturing facilities, design centers and sales offices throughout the world. About 5,900 employees work in the United States; there are about 3,000 in Malaysia and about 4,000 in China.

The company had revenue of $4.2 billion in 2013. Before 2004, it was a subsidiary of Motorola.

On the company's Facebook page, various people, including some who identified themselves as former employees, offered their condolences and prayers to the families of the missing workers.

Other tech firms expressed their support for the company and the missing workers.

"We extend our condolences to the families and coworkers of the Freescale employees aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370," Dallas-based Texas Instruments wrote on its official Facebook page.