DRAM


2021-09-01

DRAM Module Revenue Undergoes 5% YoY Growth for 2020, with Varying Performances Among Suppliers, Says TrendForce

Annual shipment of notebook computers and desktop PCs underwent a massive increase in 2020 thanks to the proliferation of the stay-at-home economy brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. In particular, notebook shipment increased by a staggering 26% YoY, thereby generating a corresponding demand for DRAM chips. Although the movement of DRAM prices remained stable in 2020, there was a palpable growth in actual DRAM bit demand. Hence, global DRAM module revenue increased by about 5% YoY to US$16.9 billion for 2020.

Looking back at the price trend of DRAM modules for 2020, TrendForce indicates that the market adopted a relative conservative outlook going forward in view of the ongoing pandemic. In turn, various end-products differed wildly in their respective market performances as well. For instance, while demand for notebooks remained strong, smartphone demand was relatively bearish. Server shipment, on the other hand, was at the same time consistent yet indicative of uncertainties, to some degree. In light of the varying performances in the end-markets, PC DRAM prices did not undergo drastic fluctuations throughout the year, and DRAM module suppliers posted earnings performances that were a direct result of their sales strategies, with certain suppliers, including Kimtigo and ADATA, able to raise their revenues by a massive margin.

As Kingston once again took pole position, ADATA recaptured the second spot on the top 10 list

Whereas the top five suppliers accounted for nearly 90% of the DRAM module market in terms of sales revenue in 2020, the top 10 suppliers accounted for nearly 95% of the market. In particular, Kingston alone possessed a nearly 80% market share, which represented a minor drop compared to 2019 yet was sufficient for the company to secure the leadership position once again. Kingston turned to a relatively conservative sales strategy last year in response to uncertainties in the pandemic-influenced market and grew its revenue by about 2% YoY for 2020.

As PC DRAM products occupied a relatively large share of ADATA’s products, the rising popularity of WFH and distance learning, along with ADATA’s foray into the gaming segment, propelled the Taiwanese company’s revenue from DRAM module sales to a 47% YoY growth in 2020. On the other hand, Shenzhen-based Kimtigo continued to cultivate its presence in the Chinese market and saw remarkable returns in both commercial and gaming segments. Not only did Kimtigo’s revenue from its DRAM module business experience a 50% YoY growth, the highest among the top 10 suppliers last year, but its ranking also leapfrogged from sixth place in 2019 to fourth place in 2020.

Major Chinese DRAM module supplier Ramaxel fell to the third spot on the top 10 list last year, although it still recorded an 11% YoY revenue growth thanks to an increase in its annual shipment. Conversely, Smart Modular Technologies, which was ranked third in 2019, fell to sixth place in 2020. This decline can be attributed to the fact that Smart primarily sells its products in the US and South American countries such as Brazil – regions which were most heavily affected by the pandemic. As physical storefronts in these regions closed due to local health and safety measures, Smart’s revenue also suffered a 7% YoY decline. Shenzhen-based POWEV posted a 10% YoY increase in its revenue, though it still dropped to fifth place because its competitors registered higher growths.

US-based Patriot Memory joined the top 10 list for the first time ever while Team Group maintained its seventh-place ranking

Team Group performed exceptionally well in spite of the ongoing pandemic by registering a 14% YoY revenue growth. This growth took place on the backs of its continued expansion in the gaming segment and increased promotional efforts. The company’s sales volume and product ASP both experienced considerable growths as a result. Along with achieving excellent online sales performances in recent years, Team Group maintained its seventh place among the top 10. Patriot Memory, a US-based supplier which likewise specializes in the gaming segment, entered the rankings of the top 10 DRAM module suppliers for the first time and immediately took eighth place. The company will likely put up similarly impressive growths going forward.

Ninth-ranked Apacer and tenth-ranked Innodisk focused on the niche industrial automation, automotive, and AIoT markets

Taking the ninth place in 2020, Apacer was able to score a growth of about 10% YoY in its revenue from DRAM modules. The company began gradually shifting its focus to the industrial automation, medical, and automotive segments in order to benefit from supplying specialty products with high gross profits. With PC DRAM products now accounting for less than half of Apacer’s offerings, the company has also been expanding into the gaming market, which is expected to bolster the company’s operations going forward.

Tenth-ranked Innodisk increased its revenue from DRAM modules by nearly 10% in 2020 and maintained a stable profit growth that demonstrated its longstanding competency in the relatively stable industrial automation market with products that have relatively high ASPs. Innodisk has been developing not only medical and AIoT products in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also DDR5 DRAM products. Taken together, these efforts represents the company’s commitment to leveraging its existing R&D abilities for emerging commercial opportunities.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

(Cover image source: Unsplash)

2021-08-23

DRAM Revenue Undergoes 26% Increase QoQ for 2Q21 Owing to Rising Quotes and Higher-Than-Expected Shipment, Says TrendForce

After DRAM prices made a rebound into an upward trajectory in 1Q21, buyers expanded their DRAM procurement activities in 2Q21 as they anticipated a further price hike and insufficient supply going forward, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Not only was demand robust from clients in the notebook segment, which benefitted from ongoing WFH and distance learning applications, but CSPs also sought to gradually replenish their DRAM inventories. Furthermore, demand for products that are relatively niche, including graphics DRAM and consumer DRAM, remained strong. Hence, DRAM suppliers experienced better-than-expected QoQ increases in their DRAM shipment for 2Q21. At the same time, DRAM quotes grew by a greater magnitude compared to the first quarter as well. With both shipment and quotes undergoing growths in tandem, DRAM suppliers registered remarkable growths in their revenues in 2Q21. Total DRAM revenue for 2Q21 reached US$24.1 billion, a 26% QoQ increase.

However, heading into 3Q21, the issue of mismatched component availability began surfacing in the upstream supply chain and bottlenecking the assembly of electronic devices. Some OEMs/ODMs (especially notebook manufacturers) have therefore scaled down their DRAM procurement due to their relatively high level of DRAM inventory in comparison with other components. As a result, although most DRAM suppliers remain bullish on the market’s future, the growth in demand from certain product segments is likely to slow down, since DRAM buyers still carry ample inventory. In light of suppliers’ insistence on raising quotes, TrendForce expects the overall ASP of DRAM products for 3Q21 to undergo a QoQ increase, albeit at a narrower 3-8% now compared to 2Q21.

DRAM suppliers significantly improved their earnings performances in 2Q21 due to massive price hikes and increased shipment of products manufactured with advanced process technologies

The three dominant suppliers (Samsung, SK hynix, and Micron) of DRAM products put up similar revenue performances for 2Q21 as they saw an increase in both ASP and shipment, with the latter surpassing the suppliers’ expectations. On the demand side, buyers showed an increased willingness to expand DRAM procurement because they anticipated that prices will rise even further. In addition, frequent shortages of various semiconductor components this year drove buyers to stock up on DRAM ahead of time so as to avoid potential manufacturing bottlenecks due to low DRAM inventory. Hence, each of the three suppliers increased its revenue by more than 20% QoQ in 2Q21. Samsung in particular registered the most remarkable growth, at a 30.2% QoQ increase. For 3Q21, these suppliers will not only continue to hike up quotes, but also increase their quarterly shipments by a similar magnitude. TrendForce thus expects their market shares to remain relatively unchanged from the previous quarter.

DRAM suppliers likewise experienced considerable growths in terms of profitability for 2Q21 thanks to the massive increase in DRAM quotes, along with the fact that DRAM products manufactured with advanced process technologies occupied a growing share of the suppliers’ DRAM bit shipment. For instance, while Samsung kicked off mass production with the 1Znm process in 1Q21 at a relatively low yield rate (since the technology was still in its infancy at the time), the company was able to considerably ramp up production in 2Q21, thereby raising its operating profit margin from 34% in 1Q21 to a staggering 46% in 2Q21. SK hynix similarly raised its operating profit margin to 38% in 2Q21 by improving the yield rate of its advanced process technology. Micron, on the other hand, increased its DRAM quotes by a similar magnitude compared to its Korean competitors in 2Q21 (Micron counts the March-May period as its fiscal quarter) and saw a jump in its operating profit margin from 26% in 1Q21 to 37% in 2Q21. Assuming that prices and shipment continue their upward trajectory in 3Q21, TrendForce is bullish on DRAM suppliers’ profitability for the quarter as well and expects market leader Samsung to reach 50% in operating profit margin for the first time in nearly three years.

Taiwanese suppliers delivered similar revenue growths to the three dominant suppliers’ in 2Q21 thanks to persistent market demand for specialty DRAM

Taiwanese DRAM suppliers posted a massive increase in their revenues for 2Q21 owing to persistently high specialty DRAM quotes and high demand from clients. More specifically, Nanya Tech’s revenue grew by about 28% QoQ for 2Q21, and its operating profit margin increased from 17.1% in 1Q21 to 31.2% in 2Q21. These growths can primarily be attributed to a 30% increase in the company’s specialty DRAM quotes, and Nanya Tech has expressed that it expects further earnings growth in 3Q21. Winbond, on the other hand, saw strong demand from its clients and raised its DRAM quotes by a greater magnitude than its NAND Flash quotes. Winbond’s revenue from its DRAM business not only rose by 39% QoQ in 2Q21, but also accounted for an increasing share of its total revenue, at 46%.

It should be pointed out that the two aforementioned Taiwanese suppliers are still currently facing the issue of insufficient production capacities, and their existing fabs do not have the physical space to house additional manufacturing equipment. Hence, before these suppliers finish constructing new fabs, they must rely on raising quotes in order to grow their DRAM businesses in the short run. Nanya Tech’s new fab that is currently under construction will not be able to contribute to the company’s production capacity until construction concludes in 2024. In the short run, Nanya is able to marginally increase its bit output only through migrating to advanced process technologies at the 1A/1Bnm nodes. Similarly, Winbond will not be able to resolve its issue of insufficient production capacity until its fab located in Luzhu, Kaohsiung, kicks off mass production in 2H22. As for PSMC, its revenue from sales of PC DRAM products manufactured in-house increased by about 7% QoQ in 2Q21. However, PSMC’s total revenue from both sales of in-house DRAM and its DRAM foundry business increased by 19% QoQ in 2Q21. Much like its Taiwanese competitors, PSMC must carefully allocate its limited production capacity between logic IC products and memory products.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-08-11

Server DRAM Prices Expected to Rise by 5-10% QoQ in 3Q21 Due to Peak Season, Says TrendForce

Suppliers and clients in the server DRAM market are still having difficulty in reaching agreements on prices for 3Q21 contracts even though the quarter is well underway, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Hence, server DRAM contract prices are much more varied than before. Regarding the price trend in July, contract quotes for the mainstream 32GB RDIMMs rose by 5-7% MoM.

However, the price hikes have led to a reduction in demand, and there are indications that server DRAM sales bits will register some decline for 3Q21. The release of server CPUs based on the new platforms is driving the procurement of higher-density 64GB RDIMMs, but this has not resulted in a significant corresponding increase in content per unit. The general trend for buyers is to replace two 32GB modules with one 64GB module, rather than a one-to-one replacement as DRAM suppliers previously expected. Contract prices of 64GB RDIMMs rose by 5-7% MoM for July, though prices were below this range for some transactions.

TrendForce’s analysis shows that server DRAM suppliers and buyers are finding it difficult to reach a consensus on prices because DRAM suppliers expect that the demand for server DRAM modules is going to surge in 3Q21 as the third quarter is the traditional peak season for the server market. As well, suppliers also anticipate that the adoption of new server processor platforms will increase the memory content in servers.

With a more optimistic demand outlook, suppliers have adjusted their product mixes to allocate more of their production capacity to server DRAM. Hence, the supply fulfillment rate has risen significantly in the server DRAM market in 3Q21. Server DRAM buyers, on the other hand, already have a high level of inventory. Clients in the data center segment were aggressively stockpiling during the first half of this year due to worries about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the supply chain. They now need some time to consume their inventories and are reluctant to procure more DRAM modules.

Contract prices will be constrained to rise further in 4Q21 as demand side has turned conservative

Currently, enterprise server OEMs in North America have finished arranging their quarterly contracts, whereas numerous cloud service providers and Chinese enterprise server OEMs are still in the midst of negotiations. TrendForce believes that, in order to reach their targets for sales and shipments, server DRAM suppliers may be willing to cut more “special deals” for server DRAM products in August. Specifically, suppliers will push for lock-in contracts that offer adjustable prices for fixed quantities.

On the whole, the general behaviors of DRAM buyers with regards to procurement have changed noticeably form the first half of this year. As the demand related to servers, PCs, and other major applications slows down, the whole DRAM market will gradually shift to the state of oversupply. Since the DRAM market is an oligopoly, the major suppliers will still have significant leverage in price negotiations. Quotes for server DRAM products could therefore rise further by 5-10% QoQ in 3Q21. However, given that prices have yet to be finalized for a substantial portion of 3Q21 contracts, the transaction volume is also very limited. This, in turn, will inevitably create a lot of uncertainties with respect to the price trend in 4Q21.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-08-10

Contract Prices of PC DRAM Expected to Decline by 0-5% in 4Q21 as Spot Prices of DRAM Modules Continue to Weaken, Says TrendForce

Now that most negotiations over contract prices of PC DRAM for 3Q21 have concluded, DRAM suppliers’ low inventories and the arrival of the peak season for DRAM procurement have resulted in a 3-8% QoQ increase in PC DRAM contract prices for 3Q21, although this is a relatively muted growth compared to the 25% increase experienced in 2Q21, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations.

However, demand for PC DRAM in the spot market began to show signs of bearish movement in early July ahead of time, as DRAM suppliers continued to lower prices in order to adjust their DRAM inventories. Regarding the contract market, PC OEMs currently carry relatively high levels of DRAM inventory because they substantially stocked up on PC DRAM beforehand in anticipation of an upcoming shortage. Not only has PC OEMs’ high DRAM inventory put downward pressure on possible price hikes for PC DRAM, but the gradual lifting of COVID-related restrictions in Europe and the US will also likely lower the overall demand for notebook computers, thereby pulling down the overall demand for PC DRAM. TrendForce therefore forecasts a 0-5% QoQ decline in PC DRAM contract prices for 4Q21.

Regarding spot prices of DRAM modules, most major module suppliers have also started to lower prices in an attempt at inventory reduction, leading to a persistent downward trend for spot prices of PC DRAM modules throughout August. According to TrendForce’s findings, this decline in spot prices of mainstream PC DRAM modules, which began on May 20th, accumulated to 32% as of August 3. Furthermore, spot prices of PC DRAM modules have, for the first time in 2021, now fallen below contract prices for 3Q21 by almost as much as 20% and are unlikely to experience a price hike in the short run.

Since PC OEMs still keep a high inventory of PC DRAM, their upcoming procurement activities for PC DRAM will likely remain sluggish

An overview of the PC DRAM market throughout 2021 shows that, as the COVID-19 pandemic reached its peak in 2Q21, most purchasers aggressively stocked up on various components, including memory solutions, in order to avoid possible shortages, and these stock-up activities were particularly bullish in the PC market. As a result, PC DRAM prices underwent a massive 25% increase in April, and demand bits also saw a surge during the quarter.

Moving into 3Q21, buyers and sellers in the PC DRAM and server DRAM markets found it difficult to reach an agreement while negotiating over contract prices throughout the end of July. As such, the increase in PC DRAM prices for 3Q21, along with the increase in PC DRAM sales bits, is significantly weaker compared to 2Q21. In addition, TrendForce indicated at the end of June that most PC OEMs were carrying about 8 to 10 weeks’ worth of PC DRAM inventory, with some even surpassing 10 weeks. Their inventories have not undergone significant improvements as of early August. As these PC OEMs gradually take delivery of DRAM they procured for 3Q21, some of them now carry inventories exceeding 12 weeks’ supply. TrendForce therefore believes that the persistently growing inventories of PC OEMs will likely result in a further weakening of PC DRAM contract prices in 4Q21.

Looking ahead to 4Q21, TrendForce expects PC shipment, particularly Chromebook shipment, to remain in a downward trajectory following increased vaccinations in Europe and the US. The latest data show that branded Chromebook shipment peaked in 2Q21 and subsequently underwent monthly declines following this peak. Furthermore, the overall demand for notebook computers has started waning as the general public resumes its day to day activities, such as a return to offices and schools, in light of the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in Europe and the US. Hence, TrendForce believes that, despite the cyclical upturn of the notebook market in 4Q21, as well as the commercial segment’s replacement demand, ODMs will likely continue to cut back on notebook production on a quarterly basis, in turn decreasing the overall demand for PC DRAM.

Prices of both consumer DRAM and graphics DRAM are expected to enter into a downturn in 4Q21 owing to weak supply and demand

In sum, the sufficiency ratio of PC DRAM increased from -1.13% in 3Q21 to 0.28% in 4Q21. Hence, TrendForce expects contract prices of PC DRAM to take a downward turn in 4Q21, while prices of DDR4 consumer DRAM, which are highly correlated with PC DRAM prices, will likely undergo a similar decline. Likewise, contract prices of graphics DRAM are expected experience a looming decline as well, since the sudden cryptocurrency downturn resulted in a corresponding plummet in cryptocurrency mining demand and, by extension, spot prices of graphics DRAM, which is used in cryptocurrency mining equipment.

Regarding server DRAM, contract prices are expected to mostly hold flat, without noticeable hints of price hikes, in 4Q21. This trend can be attributed to the server industry’s migration to Intel’s new Ice Lake platform, which has been steadily rising in terms of penetration rate, as well as the fact that demand for servers has yet to weaken. However, MoM declines in server DRAM contract prices may potentially take place in November and December. Likewise, mobile DRAM prices are expected to remain relatively unchanged in 4Q21 compared to the previous quarter. The profitability and ASP/Gb of this product category are relatively lower compared to other DRAM products, such as PC DRAM and server DRAM, and it did not experience as much of an uptrend during the prior quarters. Hence, while PC DRAM prices are expected to decline in 4Q21, mobile DRAM prices will remain sustainable, without undergoing a similar decline.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-08-02

Sudden Drop in Cryptocurrency Prices Hurts Graphics DRAM Market in 3Q21, Says TrendForce

The stay-at-home economy remains robust due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so the sales of gaming products such as game consoles and the demand for related components are being kept at a decent level, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. However, the values of cryptocurrencies have plummeted in the past two months because of active interventions from many governments, with the graphics DRAM market entering into a bearish turn in 3Q21 as a result. While graphics DRAM prices in the spot market will likely show the most severe fluctuations, contract prices of graphics DRAM are expected to increase by 10-15% QoQ in 3Q21 since DRAM suppliers still prioritize the production of server DRAM over other product categories, and the vast majority of graphics DRAM supply is still cornered by major purchasers.

It should be pointed out that, given the highly volatile nature of the graphics DRAM market, it is relatively normal for graphics DRAM prices to reverse course or undergo a more drastic fluctuation compared with other mainstream DRAM products. As such, should the cryptocurrency market remain bearish, and manufacturers of smartphones or PCs reduce their upcoming production volumes in light of the ongoing pandemic and component supply issues, graphics DRAM prices are unlikely to experience further increase in 4Q21. Instead, TrendForce expects prices in 4Q21 to largely hold flat compared to the third quarter.

Sudden drop in ETH prices led to plummeting GDDR5 and GDDR6 spot prices

Recent observations on the spot trading of graphics DRAM products indicate that the changes in this market closely correlate to the changes in the value of ether (ETH) because graphics cards are the crucial tool for processing the mining algorithm of this cryptocurrency. ETH prices fell by more than 50% within a two-month span as a result of the latest measures enacted by regulatory agencies around the world to suppress the speculation of cryptocurrencies. Accordingly, cryptocurrency miners’ and investors’ interest in ETH has also diminished significantly. The plunging demand from cryptocurrency miners also means that a substantial number of graphics cards are being pushed into the second-hand market. TrendForce’s investigation shows that spot prices of graphics cards have fallen by about 20-60% over the past month or more. The differences in the magnitude of decline depends on brand and technology generation. Furthermore, the across-the-board decline in spot prices of graphics cards has also severely constrained the spot demand for graphics DRAM.

According to TrendForce’s understanding, even though spot prices are still higher than contract prices for GDDR6 chips, the difference is rapidly shrinking. This, in turn, will have an adverse effect on the general price trend of GDDR6 chips in the future. The trading is even more subdued for GDDR5 chips that are used in the earlier generations of graphics cards. Spot prices are now actually about 20% lower than contract prices for GDDR5 chips. The difference here indicates that there is a glut of older graphics cards, and the GDDR5 chips that are embedded in them are no longer in high demand.

Contract prices of graphics DRAM are expected to increase by nearly 15% for 3Q21 as graphics DRAM suppliers’ fulfillment rate remains relatively low

Regarding the contract market for graphics DRAM, the sell-side has considerable leverage in price negotiations as these suppliers prioritize the production of server DRAM ahead of other product categories. In the current ecosystem of discrete graphics cards, graphics DRAM buyers such as Nvidia are still opting for a business model based on bundle sales (that is, graphics card manufacturers that purchase Nvidia GPUs must also purchase graphics DRAM from Nvidia). Given that Nvidia and AMD have cornered the vast majority of graphics DRAM supply, notebook OEMs and small- and medium-sized manufacturers of computer components (such as motherboards) will find it difficult to procure sufficient graphics DRAM, while DRAM suppliers’ fulfillment rate for graphics DRAM chips remains relatively low. These aforementioned factors are responsible for not only the nearly 15% QoQ hike in the overall contract prices of graphics DRAM for 3Q21 (which is slightly higher than the corresponding price hikes in mainstream PC and server DRAM products for 3Q21), but also why spot prices of GDDR6 chips are about 10-15% higher than contract prices.

On the whole, prices in the graphics DRAM spot market, which is an extremely responsive market, have already begun to reflect the weakening demand from the end-product segment, particularly for graphics cards used in cryptocurrency mining. As the supply of second-hand graphics card increases, some graphics card manufacturers may thus kick off promotional price cuts to boost sales. In addition, buyers in the spot market may also begin anticipating even lower prices, and this anticipation will likely either lead to a massive decline in their graphics card demand or result in these buyers adopting a speculative attitude regarding graphics DRAM. TrendForce therefore believes that the gap between spot prices and contract prices of GDDR6 chips will begin to narrow in 3Q21.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

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