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DRAM shortages kept chip market afloat

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:DRAM? semiconductor? market?

The global semiconductor market remained unfazed by the 10 per cent drop in PC sales and the decelerating smartphone market, as sales rise by five per cent and reached $315 billion in 2013.

The $315 billion figure, which Gartner reported, is almost $10 billion higher than estimates published by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) just a month ago.

However, Gartner analyst Andrew Norwood said in his report that, rather than showing the industry in glowing health, the numbers reveal inconsistencies and supply chain failures, especially among makers of memory chips. Their revenue rose 23.5 per cent due to short supplies and rising prices, rather than growing demand.

The shortage-driven cost of memory also helped create an enormous disparity among manufacturers, Norwood said. The 25 biggest semiconductor makers reported an average revenue increase of 6.9 per cent, compared with just 0.9 per cent for companies in the rest of the market. "Memory, and particularly DRAM, led this growth" and led to the disparity between companies at the top of the market and those at the bottom.

For example, a September 4 fire that forced the temporary closure of a SK Hynix factory in Wuxi, China, helped drive 2GB DDR3 DRAM chip prices up 42 per cent by the end of September. For the full year, SK Hynixthe world's second-largest memory manufacturerreported a 40.8 per cent revenue increase that put it among top five semiconductor makers in revenue for the first time. By contrast, Intel's revenue dropped one per cent due to weak PC sales, though it remains the market leader, and its revenue and market share are still almost half again that of No. 2 Samsung.


A DRAM shortage has actually helped the chip industry. Source: Wikipedia

On Feb. 3, the SIA posted a slightly lower but still-record market figure of $305.6 billion.

In a press release, SIA president and CEO Brian Toohey said the year showed consistent, steady growth of 4.8 per cent "across nearly all regions and product categories," despite a December spike. For the full year, the market grew 7.7 per cent worldwide, 12.7 per cent in Europe, and 17.3 per cent in the US.

In an update this week to the McClean Report issued in January, IC Insights said tablet and smartphone multi-processors will be the biggest-selling integrated circuits this year, followed by DRAM and NAND chips. However, the growing popularity of low-end smartphones will improve the results for comparatively small players, including MediaTek.

In a presentation on the report in January, IC Insights president Bill McClean said he believed a sluggish global economy will hold the numbers down. "This year looks pretty goodnot great, but better than last year. Really good growth in this industry is double-digit. Anything else is just OK."

- Kevin Fogarty
??EE Times

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