In recent years, China’s IC sales have been increasing year over year. Although sales have been suppressed by the United States and the impact of the pandemic, China’s IC sales still increased by 17% in 2020. Benefiting from the development of terminal applications such as 5G, online office, and smart cars, China’s IC sales grew by 18.2% in 2021 and it is expected to rise by 11.21% in 2022.
Currently, China’s 12-inch foundries are primarily owned by SMIC and Hua Hong Semiconductor. SMIC’s 12-inch fabs are located in Beijing and Shanghai while Hua Hong’s 12-inch fab is located in Wuxi. SMIC’s annual sales revenue in 2021 was US$5.44 billion, growing 39% YoY, and it posted net profit of US$1.775 billion, growing 147.76% YoY. From the perspective of revenue structure, 12-inch products contributed approximately 60% of SMIC’s revenue in the past year.
From the perspective of production capacity, SMIC’s capacity utilization rate has hovered around 100% in the past year. In 1Q22, SMIC’s capacity utilization rate was 100.4%, with a monthly production capacity of 613,400 units of 8-inch equivalent. . In 2021, new production capacity was 100,000 units/month (converted to 8 inches), of which 45,000 units/month was added as 8-inch wafers. At present, SMIC is still accelerating production expansion. Its project in Lingang, Shanghai has broken ground and its two projects in Beijing and Shenzhen are progressing steadily. Production is expected at these fabs by the end of 2022, mainly as 12-inch capacity.
Hua Hong Semiconductor posted operating income of US$1.631 billion in 2021, a YoY increase of 69.64%. From the perspective of revenue structure, Hua Hong Group primarily focused on 8-inch production capacity before 2020. As production commenced at Hua Hong Wuxi’s 12-inch project, Hua Hong completed the leap from 8 inches to 12 inch wafers. In the past year, Hua Hong’s average monthly production capacity of 8-inch wafers was 194,000 units and revenue was US$1.15 billion, accounting for 70.55% of total revenue. The average monthly production capacity of 12-inch wafers was 56,000 wafers and revenue was US$480 million, accounting for 29.45% of revenue, and the proportion of 12-inch revenue is increasing. In 1Q22, Hua Hong Semiconductor’s 12-inch revenue accounted for 44.1% of total revenue, an increase of 5 percentage points from the previous quarter. With the completion of the second phase of the Wuxi project, 12-inch revenue is expected to, once again, achieve substantial growth.
It is worth noting that since the Sino-US trade war, China’s substitution of domestic products has become mainstream, especially in the foundry and packaging and testing portions of the manufacturing process. In addition, the tense relationship between supply and demand and hobbled logistics caused by the pandemic has also catalyzed an increase in the proportion of fab revenue coming from China. From the perspective of wafer foundries, Hua Hong Semiconductor’s China revenue will account for 76% of total revenue in 1Q22. In terms of SMIC, although 4Q20 was categorized by an inability to manufacture Huawei orders and the proportion of revenue from China and Hong Kong fell from 69.7% in 3Q20 to 56.1% in 4Q20, as tension rose between supply and demand, lost Huawei orders have been taken up by other Chinese IC designers. In 1Q22, SMIC’s revenue from China and Hong Kong accounted for 68.4% of total revenue, a return to its peak level in 3Q20.
Behind record high sales of semiconductors is an unrelenting spike in demand. In order to alleviate the imbalance between supply and demand, the world’s major fabs are accelerating new production capacity and China’s fabs represented by SMIC and Hua Hong are also stepping up production expansion. From the perspective of the expansion structure, the current focus of fabs is still on the expansion of 12-inch wafers. The primary reason for this is that 12-inch wafers are characterized by higher production efficiency and lower unit consumables, with a comprehensive equipment supply chain. In the past two years, China has built a total of 11 projects involving 12-inch wafers. However, due to factors such as the pandemic, tide of production expansion, and lack of chips for equipment, the lead time of semiconductor equipment has been continuously drawn out, resulting in a slowdown in fab expansion. In addition, 8-inch capacity expansion is relatively slow due to equipment constraints. From the perspective of China’s foundry market, among new wafer production capacity (8 inch equivalent) from 2020 to 2021, 12 inch capacity accounted for 58.17%, 8 inch capacity accounted for 22%, and 6 inch capacity accounted for 19.83%.
According to TrendForce research, driven by strong demand for 5G mobile phones, base stations, automobiles, and HPCs, the global output value of packaging and testing (including foundry and IDM) reached US$82.139 billion in 2021, or 25.83% YoY. This upward momentum is forecast to continue in 2022, taking output value to US$101.185 billion in 2022, or 23.19% YoY. From the perspective of regional distribution, China’s IC packaging and testing output value in 2021 was approximately US$39.443 billion, increasing 31.7% compared with US$29.941 billion in 2020, becoming the world’s fastest-growing major market in terms of packaging and testing output value.
Shanghai pandemic lengthens overall lead time, hinders China’s packaging and testing growth in 2Q22
In 2Q22, Shanghai was locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although wafer fabs and packaging and testing plants were still operating normally, the pandemic hindered logistics and the materials required for packaging could not be effectively shipped from Shanghai, affecting transportation efficiency and logistics costs to a certain degree. Overall, China’s packaging and testing industry was not significantly affected by the pandemic in 1Q22 but, in 2Q22, the industry will bear the brunt of the COVID-19 situation, with packaging and testing companies experiencing prolonged overall lead times and sluggish revenue growth.
NEVs and HPCs to become new growth drivers, fabs and packaging and testing companies accelerate deployment
The growth rate of smartphones, a core driving force behind IC packaging and testing output value, is slowing down. Since smartphone shipments peaked at 14.575 million units in 2017, volume has not surpassed this number in the ensuing years. Even though the upgrade from 4G to 5G brought about a wave of replacements, the overall smartphone market has reached maturity, with slowing growth or even negative growth, so its demand on wafer manufacturing and packaging and testing is likewise slowing down.
Aside from mobile phones, growth in HPC and new energy vehicles (NEV) is becoming a new revenue engine. At present, the world’s major automobile production countries are accelerating the penetration rate of NEVs, and packaging and testing companies are also accelerating their investment in the automotive and HPC sectors. From the perspective of fabs, TSMC’s HPC revenue accounted for 41% of total packaging and testing revenue in 1Q22, surpassing mobile phones for the first time and becoming the largest source of the company’s packaging and testing revenue.
With the continuous deterioration of the global environment and the exhaustion of fossil fuel energy, countries around the world are looking for new energy sources suitable for human survival and development. The construction of photovoltaic energy storage projects is an important measure to implement energy transformation. Third-generation semiconductors have the characteristics of high frequency, high power, high voltage resistance, high temperature resistance, and radiation resistance, which can promote highly efficient, highly reliably, and low cost of photovoltaic energy storage inverters and the green and low-carbon development of energy.
SiC will be widely used in high-power string/central inverters, while GaN is more suitable for household micro-inverters
As the photovoltaic industry enters the era of “large components, large inverters, large-span brackets, and large strings,” the voltage level of photovoltaic power plants has increased from 1000V to over 1500V and high-voltage SiC power components will be used extensively in string and centralized inverters. For residential micro-inverters with a power of up to 5kW, GaN power components have more advantages. Not only can they significantly improve overall conversion efficiency, effectively reduce the levelized cost of energy (LCOE), but also allow users to easily build smaller, lighter, and more reliable inverters.
Key SiC substrates are crucial to the development of third-generation semiconductors and major manufacturers are competing to get to market
SiC substrate is regarded as the core raw material of third-generation semiconductors. Its crystal growth is slow and process technology complex. Mass production is not easy. Conductive substrates can produce SiC power electronic components while semi-insulating substrates can be used for the fabrication of GaN microwave radio frequency components. In addition, due to the high difficulty of substrate preparation, its value is relatively high. The cost of SiC substrate accounts for approximately 50% of the total cost of components which demonstrates its importance in the industrial chain.
At present, the supply of the global SiC market is firmly in the hands of substrate manufacturers. Wolfspeed, II-VI and SiCrystal (subsidiary of ROHM) together account for nearly 90% of shipments. IDM manufacturers such as Infineon, STM, and Onsemi are actively developing upstream SiC substrates and expect to take full advantage of the supply chain to strengthen their competitiveness. Everyone wants to get a piece of the pie, so the battle for SiC substrates will become more and more fierce, but the wait will not be long to see where the industry eventually goes in coming years.
According to TrendForce, Taiwan is crucial to the global semiconductor supply chain, accounting for a 26% market share of semiconductor revenue in 2021, ranking second in the world. Its IC design and packaging & testing industries also account for a 27% and 20% global market share, ranking second and first in the world, respectively. Firmly in the pole position, Taiwan accounts for 64% of the foundry market. In addition to TSMC possessing the most advanced process technology at this stage, foundries including UMC, Vanguard, and PSMC also have their own process advantages. Under the looming shadow of chip shortages caused by the pandemic and geopolitical turmoil in the past two years, various governments have quickly awakened to the fact that localization of chip manufacturing is necessary to avoid being cut off from chip acquisition due to logistics difficulties or cross-border shipment bans. Taiwanese companies have ridden this wave to become partners that governments around the world are eager to invite to set up factories in various locales.
Currently, 8-inch and 12-inch foundries are dominated by 24 fabs in Taiwan, followed by China, South Korea, and the United States. Looking at new factories plans post 2021, Taiwan still accounts for the largest number of new fabs, including six new plants in progress, followed in activity by China and the United States, with plans for four and three new fabs, respectively. Due to the advantages and uniqueness of Taiwanese fabs in terms of advanced processes and certain special processes, they accepted invitations to set up plants in various countries, unlike non-Taiwanese foundries who largely still build fabs locally. Therefore, Taiwanese manufacturers have successively announced factory expansions at locations including the United States, China, Japan, and Singapore in addition to Taiwan in consideration of local client needs and technical cooperation.
The focus of Taiwan’s key technologies and production expansion remains in Taiwan, accounting for 44% of global wafer production capacity by 2025
In 2022, Taiwan will account for approximately 48% of global 12-inch equivalent wafer foundry production capacity. Only looking at 12-inch wafer production capacity with more than 50% market share, the market share of advanced processes below 16nm (inclusive) will be as high as 61%. However, as Taiwanese manufacturers expand their production globally, TrendForce estimates that the market share held by Taiwan’s local foundry capacity will drop slightly to 44% in 2025, of which the market share of 12-inch wafer capacity will fall to 47% and advanced manufacturing processes to approximately 58%. However, Taiwanese foundries’ recent production expansion plans remain focused on Taiwan including TSMC’s most advanced N3 and N2 nodes, while companies such as UMC, Vanguard, and PSMC retain several new factory projects in Hsinchu, Miaoli, and Tainan.
TrendForce believes, since Taiwanese foundries have announced plans to build fabs in China, the United States, Japan, and Singapore, and foundries in numerous countries are also actively expanding production, Taiwan’s market share of foundry capacity will drop slightly in 2025. However, semiconductor enclaves do not come together quickly. The integrity of a supply chain relies on the synergy among upstream (raw materials, equipment, and wafers), midstream (IP design services, IC design, manufacturing, and packaging and testing), and downstream (brands and distributors) sectors. Taiwan has advantages in talent, geographical convenience and industrial enclaves. Therefore, Taiwanese foundries still tend to focus on Taiwan for R&D and production expansion. Looking at the existing blueprint for production expansion, Taiwan will still control 44% of the world’s foundry capacity by 2025 and as much as 58% of the world’s capacity for advanced processes, continuing its dominance of the global semiconductor industry.
According to TrendForce, the consumer electronics market will feel the brunt of the weakening stay-at-home economy, the pandemic in China, international tensions, and rising inflation in 1H22. Coupled with the traditional off-season, demand for relevant applications such as PCs, laptops, TVs, and smartphones has cooled significantly and downstream customers have successively downgraded their shipment targets for the year, while demand for automotive, Internet of Things, communications, and servers products remain good. At the same time, the supply chain will build higher inventories in general to mitigate the risk of material shortages due to transportation impediments induced by the spread of the pandemic and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
Due to the prolonged lead-time of semiconductor equipment and limited new capacity in 1Q22, the overall foundry capacity utilization rate remains fully loaded, in particular, component mismatch issues continue for parts produced at mature nodes (1Xnm~180nm). Looking forward to the second quarter, although growth in global wafer production capacity remains limited, due to weak demand for end products, continuing international tension, and China’s forced lockdowns and supervision due to the recent spread of the pandemic, there is an opportunity for the supply chain to obtain a more adequate supply of wafers that were previously squeezed by production capacity.
The overall supply of key server materials improved slightly in 1Q22. In addition, due to increasing orders from ultra-large data centers, the general supply cycle of NetCom chips such as LAN IC/chip remains as long as approximately 40 weeks but the demand gap can be bridged by instituting urgent order fees, mitigating actual impact. As the aforementioned situation eases, additional orders for ODM motherboard production are moving briskly, prompting continued stocking of FPGAs and PMICs materials. NetCom chips are also overstocked and the overall market has a reached a “rich get richer” mindset. Material shortages at second-tier ODMs still stifle the production of motherboards for a small number of customers but does not affect the overall server market supply. With improvements in material supply, server shipments will increase significantly in 2Q22, growing an estimated 15.8% QoQ to 3.6 million units.
Affected by sluggish seasonal demand, the Russian-Ukrainian war, and rising inflation, market demand has cooled. Thus, material delivery issues in the supply chain have eased compared to 2H21. Although there is still a shortage of certain components, most of these shortages are concentrated in mid/low-end smartphone products. The lead time for 4G and low-end 5G SoCs is approximately 30 to 40 weeks, which is limited by production capacity planning. Since last year, the demand of the mid/low-end mobile phone market has not been met. This is followed by A+G sensors with a lead time of approximately 32~36 weeks and OLED DDIC and Touch IC with a lead time of 20~22 weeks. The production volume of smartphones in 2Q22 will be affected by the interaction of the aforementioned factors with a forecast production volume of 323 million units, or only 6% QoQ, which is lower than the performance of previous years.
Also affected by weakening end market demand, discounting client SSDs that are no longer oversupplied, Type C IC, WiFi, and PMIC all currently boast long lead times, with Type C IC the lengthiest at 20~25 weeks. However, compared with TrendForce’s assessment at the beginning of this year, the delivery cycle has not grown longer, so the lead time of these three types of products is expected to improve by the end of 2Q22. As supply chain backlog continues to improve, shipments of notebook computers (including Chromebooks) is expected to reach approximately 55.1 million units in 2Q22, down 0.7% QoQ.
5. MLCC Passive Components
From the perspective of other key components, taking MLCC as an example, demand for major consumer electronic products such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and TVs declined significantly in 1Q22, resulting in high consumer product specification MLCC inventory levels held by original suppliers and channel agents and this situation may continue into 2Q22. At present, the stocking momentum for automotive and industrial MLCCs has steadily increased, while consumer specification products have yet to escape the pattern of oversupply. In 2Q22, the MLCC market has the opportunity to alleviate its component mismatch issues through gradually increased production capacity and automotive and server ICs supplied by semiconductor IDM companies, driving stocking momentum at automotive power, server, fast charging, and charging/energy storage equipment OEMs. Vehicle and industrial MLCCs have the opportunity to become primary growth drivers in 2Q22 with Murata, TDK, Taiyu and Yageo as the primary beneficiaries. Consumer specification products, which account for the bulk of MLCC production from suppliers in Taiwan, South Korea, and China, may face continued market demand weakness in 2Q22 due to a slowdown in demand for mobile phones and laptops and continuing inventory adjustment by branded companies and ODMs.
Looking forward to 2Q22, not including servers, demand for end products related to the consumer category remains weak. Components that were originally oversupplied will face more severe price tests due to the imbalance between supply and demand. In terms of materials in serious short supply, more output will be transferred to products with strong demand through the deployment of internal production capacity. TrendForce believes that from the changes in PC market conditions, it can be seen in rapid changes in demand, purchasing behavior has quickly switched from the former over-ordering strategy to actively cutting orders, inducing supply chains to buck the seasonal trends of previous years. Due to the accelerated recent spread of Omicron in China and under the country’s dynamic zero-COVID policy, mandatory and sudden lockdown and control measures may cause local manufacturers to face multiple and complex supply chain problems, which will be detrimental to market performance.