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Chip Gear Review
Semiconductor Industry Revenues
This year semiconductors are booming. After the negative revenue growth of 1996 and 1998 and the 18% recovery of 1999, this year semiconductors are on track to post a high, double-digit growth rate. According to the mid-year forecast of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), an industry trade group, worldwide semiconductor revenues would grow by 31% to $195 billion in 2000. This latest SIA forecast, however, looks conservative when compared to the 44% revenue growth predicted by VLSI Research, a market research firm.
The first signs of the semiconductor boom came during the first quarter of this year. In January, 2000, semiconductor revenues reached $14.8 billion - up 1% sequentially and 33% over January, 1999. In February, 2000, revenues were $14.6 billion - down 1% sequentially and up 34% over February, 1999. In March, 2000, revenues reached $14.9 billion - up 2% sequentially and another 34% over March, 1999. Overall, instead of the usual seasonal slowdown after the Christmas shopping spree, in the first quarter of the year the industry achieved a 5% sequential growth and as much as 34% growth over the first quarter of 1999.
During the second quarter of 2000, the expectations for a semiconductor boom were confirmed. In April, 2000, industry sales reached $15.2 billion - up 2% sequentially and 36% over April, 1999. In May, 2000, sales progressed to $15.8 billion - up 4% sequentially and 40% over April, 1999. In June, 2000, sales climbed to $16.6 billion up 5% sequentially and some 48% over April, 1999. Overall, during the first six months of the year, sales reached $91.9 billion, an increase of 37% over the first half of 1999.
Worldwide Semiconductor Sales ($B)
Period 2000 % chg. 1999 % YY
Jan 14.80 1 11.10 33
Feb 14.60 -1 10.88 34
Mar 14.90 2 11.16 34
Q1 44.30 5 33.14 34
Apr 15.20 2 11.21 36
May 15.80 4 11.30 40
June 16.60 5 11.20 48
Q2 47.60 7 33.71 41
H1 91.90 37 66.85 37
Semiconductor Equipment Manufacturing Revenues
In this booming environment it is no surprise that revenues of semiconductor equipment manufacturers are also rapidly expanding. In November, 1999, the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), an industry trade group, predicted that worldwide semiconductor equipment sales would grow by a modest 18% in 2000. In April this year, the group announced a fast-ramp forecast with growth of 44% and revenues of $36.7 billion. Again this SEMI forecast looks quite conservative when compared to growth of 87% and revenues of $61.7 billion, expected by VLSI Research.
As in the case of the semiconductor industry, the first signs that semiconductor equipment will be booming in 2000, came in the first quarter of this year. In January, SEMI reported a significant increase in the book-to-bill ratio, a ratio of three-month moving average bookings to three-month moving average shipments for the North American semiconductor equipment industry. That month, the ratio increased to 1.39 from 1.19 in December, 1999. It showed that $139 in orders were received by semiconductor equipment manufacturers for each $100 worth of products shipped, indicating that semiconductor companies are planning a rapid expansion of their manufacturing capacities.
The following two months came in to prove that the January increase of the book-to-bill ratio was a meaningful event. In February, the ratio climbed to 1.41 and in March, it reached 1.46. Finally, SEMI announced that in the first quarter of 2000, semiconductor equipment shipments reached $10.1 billion - up 25% sequentially and 102% over the first quarter of 1999.
During Q2 of 2000, expectations of a boom in the semiconductor equipment industry were reaffirmed. Although the book-to-bill ratio declined for three consecutive months, the values of its components steadily increased. In April, the ratio dropped to 1.36, but average shipments increased 14% sequentially and average booking increased 7% sequentially. In May, the ratio declined further to 1.29, but average shipments were up 8% sequentially and average bookings were up 2% sequentially. In June, the ratio slid to 1.27, but shipments increased another 5% and bookings increased another 3% sequentially. Then, SEMI reported that in the second quarter of 2000, semiconductor equipment shipments had reached $11.8 billion - up 17% sequentially and 122% over the second quarter of 1999. The accumulated results for the first six months of 2000 showed that semiconductor equipment shipments had reached $21.9 billion up 112% from shipments of $10.3 billion in the first six months of 1999.
N.A. Semiconductor Book-to-Bill Ratio ($B)
Period Ship. % Chg. Book. % Chg. Ratio
Jan 1.605 0.5 2.226 16.7 1.39
Feb 1.606 0.0 2.268 1.9 1.41
Mar 1.745 8.7 2.547 12.3 1.46
Apr 1.991 14.1 2.716 6.6 1.36
May 2.158 8.4 2.778 2.3 1.29
June 2.260 4.7 2.859 2.9 1.27
Worldwide Semiconductor Equipment Shipments ($B)
Period 2000 Seq. Chg. % % YY 1999 Seq. % Chg.
Q1 10.10 26.3 102.0 5.00 25.0
Q2 11.80 16.8 122.6 5.30 6.0
H1 21.90 44.1 112.6 10.30
Semiconductor Equipment Growth
The extraordinary revenue growth that semiconductor equipment manufacturers are experiencing currently is a result of two major tendencies within the semiconductor industry. These tendencies can be roughly categorized as supply-and-demand driven. On the one hand, the supply of semiconductors is limited due to the fact that semiconductor manufacturers are running their production facilities at nearly 100% capacity. On the other hand, the demand for semiconductors has increased dramatically this year. As demand surpassed supply, a shortage situation occurred. In this environment, semiconductor prices increased and boosted the revenues of semiconductor manufacturers. Finally, attracted by rising revenues, semiconductor manufacturers are responding to the shortage by hiking investments in manufacturing equipment.
The Capacity Problem
So far this year, semiconductor manufacturers appear to be running production facilities at nearly 100% capacity despite some significant capacity additions. This is evident from the data presented in the Semiconductor Industry Capacity Statistics (SICAS) report, compiled by a consortium of five electronics industry trade associations, including SIA. According to this report, during the first quarter of 2000, total IC capacity utilization increased to 94.6% from 93.9% in the fourth quarter of 1999. Utilization increased despite the fact that during the first quarter, total IC wafer - fab capacity increased by almost 10% to 1.969 million wafer starts per week (six-inch equivalents) - from 1.796 million wafer starts per week (six-inch equivalents) in the fourth quarter of 1999. For comparative purposes, the semiconductor industry increased its manufacturing capacity by a mere 7% in 1999.
In the second quarter, the problem with semiconductor manufacturing capacity was exacerbated further. According to SICAS, in the second quarter of 2000, wafer fabrication capacity increased by another 3% to 2.003 million wafer starts per week (six-inch equivalents) from 1.969 million wafer starts per week (six-inch equivalents) in the first quarter. Nevertheless, total IC capacity utilization climbed to 95.5% from 94.6% in the first quarter.
The capacity problem in the semiconductor industry is likely to worsen in the second half of the year. So far in 2000, semiconductor manufacturers appear to have managed to increase capacity by filling empty fabrication facilities with deep, sub-micron manufacturing equipment that provides greater output. "Quite a few of the empty fab shells have been outfitted and expanded," says analyst Bill McLean of IC Insights, a market research firm. Further, the SICAS report shows that almost the entire manufacturing capacity added by the industry in the first and second quarter of the year, was in MOS fabs producing ICs with feature sizes below 0.3 microns. Finally, the expectation of continuing capacity problems in the second half of 2000, are based on the fact that it takes at least nine months for a new wafer fab to be built and go into production. Thus, even if semiconductor manufacturers had purchased manufacturing equipment in 2000, it would make an impact on the market as early as the fourth quarter and beyond.
Integrated Circuit Wafer Fab Capacity and Utilization
Period IC Capacity* Seq. Chg. % Utilization %
Q4/99 MOS sub 0.3-mn 462.8 29.2 97.5
Q4/99 Total IC: 1796.1 2.4 93.9
Q1/00 MOS sub 0.3-mn 578.6 25.0 97.3
Q1/00 Total IC: 1968.8 9.6 94.6
Q2/00 MOS sub 0.3-mn 623.1 7.7 96.2
Q2/00 Total IC: 2003.6 1.8 95.5
* in wafer-starts per week x 1000 Source: SIA
Semiconductor demand this year is driven mainly by growth in communications, computing and consumer electronics applications. According to Bill McClean, between 1999 and 2003, the communications segment will grow by a Compound Average Growth Rate (CAGR) of 24%. In the same period, the computing segment is expected to grow by a CAGR of 19% and the consumer electronics segment is expected to register a CAGR of 14%.
The two products that are seen to contribute most to the increasing semiconductor demand are personal computers (PCs) and cell phones. According to International Data Corp, a market research firm, PC shipments would increase by 18% to 19% in 2000. At the same time, Global Mobile, a market research firm, has forecast that cell phone shipments would increase by as much as 53% in 2000.
Worldwide PC Unit shipments (000)
Period 2000 1999 %
Q1 30.36 25.30 20.0
Q2 30.30 26.29 15.3
H1 60.66 51.59 17.6
Q3 est. 33.40 28.19 18.5
9 mo.est.94.06 79.78 17.9
YE 133.50 112.70 18.5
Source: International Data Corp.
Worldwide Cell phone Unit shipments (000)
Period 2000 1999 %
Q1 §94.00 55.40 69.7
Q2 103.70§61.60 68.3
H1 197.70§117.00 69.0
Q3 est. 114.20 75.00 52.3
9 mo. est. 311.90 192.00 62.4
YE §444.00 291.00 52.6
Source: Global Mobile, Dataquest, Merrill Lynch Date: August 2, 2000
This year's growth in communications, computing and consumer electronics applications has resulted in chip shortages. In particular, growth in communications and consumer electronics applications created shortages of flash memory and Static Random Access Memory (SRAM). Growth in computing applications created shortages of microprocessors and Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM).
The growth in cellular phones, MP3 audio, digital cameras and set-top boxes has also created a flash shortage. In a recent interview, Richard Wawrzyniak, senior analyst at Semico Research, a market research firm, said, "There is a severe shortage of flash and allocation is the rule of the day." Frank Cavallaro, vice president of sales at NECX, an independent semiconductor component distributor, thinks the same. "We're seeing globally flash demand far outpacing supply," says Cavallaro. Finally, the flash shortage has resulted in an increase of average selling prices. According to Wawrzyniak, so far in 2000, flash ASP has reached $5.26 up 41% from an ASP of $3.74 in 1999.
The growth of cell phones and networking equipment has produced sporadic shortages of SRAM. According to Brian Kumagai, business development engineer at Toshiba, "Demand has exceeded supply in the first quarter." In the same period, J.B Ra, senior marketing manager at Samsung, said that most slow-speed SRAM shipped by the company is on allocation. More recently, there have been indications that SRAM demand continues to be strong. In August, Dan McCraine, executive vice president at Cypress Semiconductor (NYSE:CY), a leading SRAM manufacturer, said, "The demand for Cypress low-power SRAMs from handset manufacturers, including Motorola, is continuing at a vigorous pace. With more than half of the year behind us, we now confidently expect our calendar year-over-year business with Motorola to increase by almost a factor of five." Finally, the tight supply of SRAMs has prompted analysts to increase their ASP forecasts. According to Semico Research, SRAM ASP will reach $5.64 in 2000 up from $4.45 in the fourth quarter of 1999.
The growth of computing applications has created a shortage of DRAM. According to a Dataquest forecast, a significant DRAM shortage would start in the third quarter of 2000 and continue until the first quarter of 2002. Steve Cullen, an analyst at In-Stat Group, a market research firm, agrees, "For the next couple of years, demand will exceed supply." This is the conclusion of Tamao Kikuchi of Nikkei Market Access as well, who said: "A serious shortage of DRAMs will continue until the end of 2001." Finally, this August, DRAM manufacturers also started to talk about shortage. "We think the market just entered a real shortage - approximately 3% to 5% unfilled demand in the most recent quarter," said Reiko Soga, senior product marketing manager at NEC Electronics Inc.'s North American memory business.
The growth of computing applications also produced a shortage of microprocessors. Most acute is the shortage of Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) Pentium III processors. The shortage of these processors started back in October, 1999. And while the company persistently portrayed the shortage as a short-term problem, in May, 2000, Craig Barrett, president and chief executive officer, finally said that he expects tight supply for another 12 months.