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)
After the Chinese holidays, solar-related materials continued to decline, with the exception of module prices which remained nearly flat. Prices for other materials such as cells, wafers, and polysilicon all decreased.
Polysilicon prices have continued to decline since the Labor Day holiday, with mono-Si compound feedings and mono-Si dense materials now priced at RMB 158/kg and RMB 155/kg, respectively. Downstream wafer businesses are trying to reduce their polysilicon inventory to avoid further losses from price drops. The increase in polysilicon output is weakening price protection for polysilicon companies, with some dumping their stocks, further accelerating the price drop. The ramp-up phase has resulted in lower quality polysilicon, creating an apparent price difference compared to high-quality polysilicon. The drop in prices is expected to continue.
Wafer prices have dropped for nearly two weeks, guided by leading wafer businesses. M10 and G12 now cost a respective mainstream price of RMB 5.4/pc and RMB 7.4/pc. Zhonghuan recently announced a more than 8% reduction in its wafer prices following LONGi’s announcement of an approximate 3% drop in wafer prices. The cautious attitude towards procurement in response to falling prices has led to sluggish market transactions. The cell segment’s reluctance to purchase has led to shipment difficulties and an inventory build-up. Combined with the ongoing decline in polysilicon prices, wafer prices are expected to continue to fall in the short term.
Cell prices have dropped slightly following the Labor Day holiday, with M10 and G12 cells now priced at RMB 1.04/W and RMB 1.1/W respectively. The reduction in upstream polysilicon and wafer prices, along with price suppression from downstream module makers, contributed to the decrease. However, the balanced supply and demand of cells prevented a significant drop, allowing cell businesses to maintain partial profitability. Further reductions in cell prices may occur due to ongoing cost reductions upstream and price pressure from module makers, but the equilibrium between upstream and downstream sectors could slow the decrease. M10 mono-Si TOPCon cell prices have increased due to a gradual rise in market transactions, now priced at RMB 1.18/W.
Module prices are holding steady in the short term, with 182 & 210 mono-Si single-sided PERC modules priced at RMB 1.67/W and RMB 1.68/W respectively, and 182 & 210 bifacial double-glass mono-Si PERC modules at RMB 1.69/W and RMB 1.7/W. Upstream price reductions have yet to affect the module segment due to the retention of profitability for the cell segment and the traditional peak season for the PV industry. Despite the price-suppressing approach from the end sector, first-tier module makers are stabilizing their prices, and overseas demand is strong. Overall, module prices are expected to remain sturdy in the short term. (Image credit: EnergyTrend)
Global PCB market revenue will decline by 3.4% in 2023 due to low demand for consumer electronics, reaching around USD 80.5 billion, down from approximately USD 83.3 billion in 2022. However, the industry is expected to rebound, with a potential to reach USD 100 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 3.7% from 2022~2027, led by automotive PCBs of USD 9.2 billion accounting for the largest part in 2022, and will reach USD 15.6 billion in 2027. TrendForce research shows that China dominates PCB production with a 53% market share in 2023, followed by Taiwan at 13%, Korea at 10%, Japan at 9%, and SEA at 8%.
China’s rising labor costs, environmental regulations, and geopolitical tensions have led to a shift in the PCB supply chain outside of China. SEA, with its labor advantages and free trade benefits, has become a popular destination for PCB manufacturers. TrendForce says that Thailand currently accounts for 50% of the total PCB production value in SEA. Major Taiwanese manufacturers have established factories in Thailand to establish complete industry chains. With an average monthly salary level of $8,800, Thailand is well-positioned to become a key production base for the PCB industry in Southeast Asia.
SEA PCB Production Value to Follow China’s Closely in the Next 10 Years
SEA such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam have an average manufacturing labor cost of about half of that in China, but their production efficiency is still 20% lower than China’s. In addition, SEA is limited by a shortage of industry talents and incomplete supply chains, resulting in high procurement costs, especially for mid-to-high-level engineering and management personnel. Therefore, large-scale investment in the region is still unlikely at this stage. As the PCB industry chain relocation requires a long time due to its cluster effect, China is expected to remain the world’s largest PCB producer in the next 10 years, accounting for over 40% of the global PCB production value, while SEA is expected to become the 2nd largest producer.
Taiwanese companies are leading the expansion of PCB factories in Southeast Asia.
Taiwanese PCB manufacturers have the highest market share at 34%, but only 38% of their production capacity is located in Taiwan, with the majority around 60% being concentrated in China. To follow the trend of supply chain relocation, 9 Taiwanese PCB manufacturers, including Elite Material, ITEQ, and CCL, plan to establish factories in Thailand, while Chinese manufacturers like Shenzhen Jove Enterprise, and China Eagle Electronic have all set up factories in Thailand. International ones like CMK and Kyoden have also set up factories in Thailand, while TTM, Simmtech, and AT&S focus on Malaysia, and Vector Fabrication has chosen Vietnam.
The risks associated with the United States’ suppression of China’s semiconductor industry and the ongoing tension in China-US relations continue to permeate the supply chain. However, most customers of foundries are adopting a cautious approach, either maintaining a wait-and-see attitude or gradually introducing second sources to mitigate risks.
The operational conditions and challenges faced by China’s two major foundries, SMIC and HuaHong, differ to some extent. In the case of SMIC, despite being added to the U.S. Entity List as early as 2020, most of its customers continue to place orders with SMIC due to concerns about the time-consuming and costly nature of verification.
According to a survey by TrendForce, only one U.S.-based brand is actively pursuing a decoupling strategy in response to U.S. government bids, while other brands are mostly conducting risk assessments of their supply chains without fully implementing a complete decoupling strategy.
In particular, SMIC still maintains a competitive edge in terms of lower prices and the advantage of the domestic Chinese market, which keeps most of its customers placing orders and prevents a significant drop in overall capacity utilization rate compared to other foundries. Its utilization rate in 1Q23 was approximately 65-70%, and it is expected to slightly increase to nearly 70% in 2Q23.
HuaHong, on the other hand, is taking a cautious approach to address the risks arising from the China-US tension. HuaHong’s subsidiary, ICRD, primarily focuses on process technology R&D, with a particular emphasis on the 28/14nm process nodes.
It is currently setting up a specialized 28nm production line, which uses photolithography equipment from two major international manufacturers, ASML and Nikon. For all other equipment, Chinese domestically manufactured machines are being used as substitutes.
The planned total production capacity for this production line is 40Kwspm ( wafer starts per month). Considering the possibility of both Japan and the Netherlands potentially joining trade sanctions later this year, the future expansion plans for HuaHong’s production capacity are uncertain.
(Photo Credit: SMIC)
TV sales in China hit their peak in 2019, with 44.5 million units sold, but the market experienced a sharp decline in 2020. This was due to the previous marketing strategy of lowering prices to increase sales volume no longer being effective for small and medium-sized products. In response, brands shifted their focus to larger-sized products, specifically those with a screen size of 65 inches or above, which has accelerated the trend of larger TVs dominating the market.
Panel prices skyrocketed between 2020 and 2021, causing a significant price disparity for TV products during promotional events in China. In the 2021 618 promotion, 55-inch TV prices surged by 67% compared to the previous year, while 65-inch TVs increased by 50%, leading to a surge in demand for larger TV sizes. TVs with a screen size of 55 inches and above accounted for over 65% of the market share in China in 2021, and it is anticipated to reach 80% by 2022. With greater discounts, 65-inch TVs became the mainstream size in 2022, surpassing 55-inch TVs in sales volume and market share. The market share of smaller TVs (43 inches and below) fell from roughly 30% to 16%.
According to recent market research, the dominance of smart TVs has surged from 85% in 2016 to a staggering 98% in 2022. Additionally, the popularity of 4K TVs has risen rapidly, with an 80% market share in 2022, following their introduction in 2014. The shift towards these new TV standards has been fueled by ongoing price cuts in the retail sector and the growing demand for larger screen sizes.
The scale of promotions during China’s 618 and Double Eleven shopping festivals could be affected by the upward trend of larger screen sizes and the rise in panel prices in 2023. As a result, brands are expected to shift their promotional strategies towards larger TVs, particularly 75-inch and 85-inch models, which generate more revenue. Consequently, TV sales in China for this year are predicted to decline further by 1.7%, with an estimated sales volume of approximately 30 million units.v