Over the past few years, the US Department of Commerce has imposed export restrictions and the CHIPS Act, causing political tensions to rise between China and the US. To mitigate geopolitical risks, customers are beginning to diversify the proportion of Chinese and non-Chinese suppliers, with Taiwanese foundries expected to benefit.
Industry sources claim that one of the world’s top three CMOS image sensor manufacturers, which previously produced CIS chips for laptops at Hua Hong, has reportedly shifted its orders to PSMC at the request of its customers. Another major power discrete manufacturer is also reportedly considering discussions with PSMC for related cooperation due to geopolitical concerns.
The subsidy regulations of the CHIPS Act prohibit subsidy recipients from transferring funds to related foreign entities, expanding semiconductor manufacturing capacity in “related countries” within 10 years, or engaging in any form of joint research or technology licensing with foreign entities involved in sensitive technology or products.
China’s advanced process capacity will only account for 1% in 2025
TrendForce predicts that the CHIPS Act may further reduce the willingness of multinational semiconductor companies to invest in China. Japan and the Netherlands have also joined the sanctions, which may hinder the expansion plans of both Chinese and multinational foundries in China. Chinese foundries are more active in expanding mature process capacity, with a projected growth of 27% from 2022~2025, but the advanced process has only 1% in 2025. However, the US is expected to have the highest growth rate in advanced processes (7nm and below), reaching 12% by 2025.
China’s memory production capacity will decline annually
SK hynix is the only one of the top three DRAM manufacturers with a production facility in China’s Wuxi. Due to factors such as oversupply and geopolitics, Wuxi’s DRAM production has decreased from 48% to 44%. The company’s new plant is expected to be located in Korea. Meanwhile, Samsung and Micron have no DRAM production in China, and their expansion plans will focus on Korea and the United States respectively. According to TrendForce, as DRAM production in Korea continues to rise, China’s global share of DRAM production capacity will gradually decline from 14% to 12% between 2023 and 2025.
Samsung and SK Hynix are reportedly unlikely to expand their legacy-process production lines for NAND flash memory as they approach manufacturing of 200-layer and higher products, making sub-128-layer processes uncompetitive. Instead, they are planning to establish new production facilities in South Korea or other regions. This move could restrict China’s NAND flash production capacity expansion and process upgrades, causing its global market share to drop from an estimated 31% to 18% between 2023 and 2025.
(Image credit: SMIC)
TrendForce’s latest research indicates that, as production cuts to DRAM and NAND Flash have not kept pace with weakening demand, the ASP of some products is expected to decline further in 2Q23. DRAM prices are projected to fall 13~18%; NAND Flash is expected to fall between 8~13%.
On the other hand, based on the weekly updates on the DRAM and NAND flash spot markets by TrendForce, the spot markets for DRAM and NAND flash continued to decline this week. Details are as follows.
DRAM Spot Market
Spot prices of DDR4 products have been dropping incrementally for several consecutive days, and buyers in the spot market are mostly waiting for further developments. However, there are more quote inquiries for DDR5 products because the supply gap hasn’t been bridged. As a result, there is now an uptick in spot prices of DDR5 products, and the divergence between DDR4 and DDR5 products in terms of price trajectory is expected to continue for several weeks. Nevertheless, spot prices of DDR4 products are showing no sign of rebounding in the near future. The average spot price of mainstream chips (i.e., DDR4 1Gx8 2666MT/s) fell by 0.74% from US$ 1.618 last week to US$ 1.606 this week.
NAND Flash Spot Market
European and American spot markets have yet to recover in purchase sentiment, while some Asian markets, due to the recuperation of the Chinese market, have slightly risen in purchase willingness. Overall spots have not experienced any apparent fluctuations from South Korean suppliers’ announcement of production cuts, despite sellers aggressively adjusting their prices and pursuing orders, which led to a restricted level of overall transactions and a small drop in prices. 512Gb TLC wafer has dropped by 0.35% in spot prices this week, arriving at US$1.431.
DRAM Spot Market:
SpecTek, a subsidiary of Micron, has slightly increased the prices of its products in the spot market. Additionally, sellers have indicated that they will not slash prices further for low-priced chips. As a result, the momentum of trading activities has stagnated. Like buyers in the contract market, buyers in the spot market are adopting a wait-and-see approach. Facing significant losses, DRAM suppliers need to enlarge the scale of their production cuts in order to stabilize prices. DDR4 products are also experiencing a serious inventory glut, and their prices could keep going down due to the weak overall demand. Conversely, DDR5 products are experiencing a tighter supply due to the PMIC incompatibility issue, thereby leading to an increase in their prices. The average spot price of mainstream chips (i.e., DDR4 1Gx8 2666MT/s) fell by 0.06% from US$3.235 the previous week to US$3.233 this week.
NAND Flash Spot Market:
Inquiries for some packaged dies were once prosperous with market anticipation gradually turning to focusing on the rebound of prices under suppliers’ production cuts, however, the level of demand is seen primarily from short-term and urgent orders at an insignificant expansion of transactions, where overall prices are still dropping at a decelerated pace. 512Gb TLC wafer has dropped by 0.76% in spot prices this week, arriving at US$1.436.
According to TrendForce research, looking at NAND Flash wafers, the pricing of which more sensitively reflects the market, suppliers are increasingly motivated to cut prices in exchange for sales due to weak retail demand since March and a more conservative outlook for shipments of other end products. The price of NAND Flash wafers is expected to begin falling in May and the supply of NAND Flash will gradually overtake demand in 2H22. The price decline of NAND Flash wafers in 3Q22 may reach 5~10%.
At the same time, TrendForce indicates that February’s contamination incident at Kioxia was expected to tighten the market in 2Q22 and 3Q22. However, as a consequence of rising inflation and the war between Russia and Ukraine, market demand for consumer products in the traditional peak season of the second half of the year is trending conservative and the prices of client SSD, eMMC, and UFS in 3Q22 will be flat compared to 2Q22, breaking from the original expectation that prices may rise. In terms of enterprise SSDs, as demand for data centers remains strong, no significant correction in demand has yet been observed. However, as the overall NAND Flash market gradually moves into oversupply, prices will only grow slightly by approximately 0~5% in 3Q22.
Weakening demand in a period of unabated production expansion, NAND Flash may face oversupply in 2H22
From the perspective of demand, due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, rising inflation, and the pandemic in China, overall demand for consumer electronics is weak. Demand for Chromebooks dwindled rapidly at the beginning of 2022 as exogenous demand from the pandemic disappeared. In terms of conventional notebooks, the situation with commercial models and consumer models present a divergence. Demand for commercial notebooks is benefiting from a return to the office occurring in many countries, while the opposite is true for consumer notebooks. Therefore, overall demand for notebooks in 2022 will be lower compared to demand in 2021. In terms of smart phones, the production volume of Chinese brands has been suppressed due to China’s flailing against the pandemic and government lockdowns stemming from a continued insistence on a dynamic zero-COVID policy, resulting in continuous downward revisions of global smart phone production for 2022.
In terms of supply, Samsung is focusing on substantial future growth in the enterprise SSD sector and continues to maintain its original capacity expansion plan, especially after its NAND production line was derailed due to the Xi’an lockdown at the end of last year. In order to stabilize future plant operations, the capacity of its P2L fab in South Korea continues to increase. Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC) will also expand its wafer input plan in 2H22. Since the 128L yield rate has reached the company’s goal and it had successfully broken into the tier 1 smartphone supply chain in 1H22, YMTC will also accelerate production at its second factory in Wuhan. Therefore, TrendForce indicates, since an overall weakness in demand will linger in 2022 yet certain manufacturers will maintain a pattern of expanding production, the NAND Flash market will face oversupply in 2H22. As mentioned above, the prices of various products will be flat or experience reduced growth in 3Q22.
According to TrendForce research, demand continues to weaken due to modestly high inventories maintained by buyers and sellers, coupled with the recent impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war and rising inflation on PCs, laptops, and smartphones. However, overall NAND Flash supply has been significantly downgraded in the wake of raw material contamination at Kioxia and WDC in early February, becoming the key factor in a 5~10% NAND Flash price appreciation in 2Q22.
In terms of Client SSD, the Russian-Ukrainian war has compelled PC OEMs to adopt a conservative stocking strategy for orders in 2Q22, which may continue affecting orders during peak season in 2H22, and revising 2022 shipment targets downwards. This year, SSD output has officially stepped out from the shadow of the semiconductor shortage. As Kioxia’s production capacity gradually recovered to supply SSD products in May and production capacity continues to roughly meet customer demand, suppliers have adopted a more aggressive pricing strategy. Price growth in 2Q22 is forecast to moderate to 3~8% compared with original expectations.
In terms of Enterprise SSD, as procurement capacity and orders for servers and hyperscale data centers grow and lead times on Enterprise SSD products balloon due to material contamination at Kioxia and WDC, clients immediately turned to Samsung and Solidigm looking for supply. Since the supply of PCIe 4.0 products is limited, suppliers have adopted a tough price negotiation policy which will drive the price of enterprise SSD up by 5~10% in 2Q22.
In terms of eMMC, demand for consumer products such as TVs, Chromebooks, and tablets continue to weaken, limiting demand for low- and medium-capacity eMMC products to a marginal level. Although the primary supply of low-capacity 2D NAND output has yet to be affected by raw material contamination, the overall deal-making atmosphere of the market remains transformed by the contamination incident. In addition, the plan of suppliers to gradually reduce 2D production capacity has not changed. Therefore, suppliers are eager to maintain profits by increasing the price of relatively low capacity eMMC products. eMMC contract pricing in 2Q22 is forecast to rise by 3-8%.
In terms of UFS, the Russian-Ukrainian war, high inflation, and other factors have weakened demand for the most important UFS applications such as smart phones. Likewise affected by the contamination of raw materials, the total output of 3D NAND has been significantly reduced. For UFS products with larger capacity and higher layer counts, the downgrade in supply far outstrips movement on the demand side. UFS pricing in the 2Q22 is forecast to increase approximately 3~8%. In terms of NAND Flash wafers, although demand for products such as flash drives and memory cards is weak, these are low priority products in the supply chain. Since raw material contamination has seriously affected the supply of NAND Flash wafers. 3D NAND Prices are forecast to move upwards by 5%~10% in 2Q22.