Articles


2022-07-25

Automotive MCU Market Hot in 2022, Market Size Estimated to Grow by 25.7% Annually

Although the overall economy is unstable, the use of automotive MCUs is still increasing gradually due to electric and smart vehicle trends. In order to meet market demand, IDMs have strengthened their investment in production resources. There will also be volume and price growth in 2022. Overall market size is estimated to reach US$8.58 billion, with an annual growth rate of 25.7%.

Automotive MCU market dominated by major international IDMs, 32-bit penetration rate will reach 80.1% in 2022

NXP, Renesas, and Infineon account for approximately 70% of global automotive MCU market share. In 2022, NXP will focus on the development of its S32 series and presented a S32M test chip featuring TSMC’s 5nm process, symbolizing a major milestone in the development of automotive chips. Renesas is focusing on its RH850 series, supplemented by the Low Power RL78 to stabilize development. Infineon’s automotive MCU development is focused on its AURIX series which features a self-developed TriCore core and is designed to perform mid-to-high-level automotive system control.

In general, major international IDMs have a complete line of automotive MCUs. With the increasing number of automotive functions, requirements for MCU computing power have advanced. Considering the optimization of major manufacturers’ product portfolios, the penetration rate of 32-Bit MCUs will also increase year by year and is forecast to grow to 80.1% in 2022.

Nuvoton ranks among top ten MCUs producers worldwide, Taiwanese manufacturers’ operations suffer headwinds after tide of shortages recedes

Taiwanese MCU manufacturers are represented by Nuvoton, Holtek, and Sonix. There are other manufacturers such as Generalplus, Nyquest, Hycon, and Megawin but their revenue scale is small and proportion of MCU is low. Overall, only Nuvoton is an IDM with a MCU market share ranked among the top ten in the world and readily available automotive MCU products.

Taiwanese manufacturers mainly focus on mid-to-low-end consumer electronics applications with low barriers to entry. Most of them are fabless manufacturers, meaning the barriers to entry for capital are also low. Therefore, it is difficult to compare their product portfolios with major international manufacturers. After the shortage of semiconductors subsided, operation in 1H22 inevitably encountered headwinds and demand for consumer electronics in 2H22 will continue to be weak, signaling the arrival of a cold winter for the consumer MCU market.

(Image credit: Pixabay)

2022-07-21

Labor Costs, Geopolitics, Pandemic, Chinese Mobile Phone Brands Accelerate Deployment of Overseas Production

Chinese smartphone brands such as Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo all have their own production lines. In recent years, these brands have accelerated their overseas deployment due to rising labor costs in China, growing geopolitical risk factors, and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only will Xiaomi produce mobile phones in Vietnam, but the company will also continue to expand production lines in India and Indonesia in the coming years. OPPO has also set up factories in countries including India, Indonesia, and Turkey to meet the needs of neighboring markets. Vivo has successively set up factories in India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, and initiated its production lines in Turkey and Pakistan in 2021. Since current trends have the Chinese market declining more than the global market, OPPO and Vivo’s proportion of overseas production capacity is expected to increase gradually. As for Xiaomi, which has always been active in overseas markets, the company will continue to expand its production capacity in India and Vietnam.

Xiaomi’s achievements in expanding overseas markets are most outstanding, OPPO following suit, Vivo rushing to catch up

From the perspective of Chinese brands, Xiaomi has been deeply involved in overseas markets for many years. Its overseas revenue was only RMB9.1 billion in 2016, but by 2018, overseas revenue had exceeded RMB70 billion. Xiaomi currently has a market share varying between 10 and 25% in Europe, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. On the other hand, OPPO has been tackling overseas markets aggressively since 2018, and currently has a market share between 10-15% in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. As for Vivo’s late start, its market share in India, Pakistan, and the Philippines is approximately 10-15%.

If the overall market is divided into the Chinese market and the non-Chinese market, shipments from Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo to the non-Chinese market are estimated to account for 74%, 66%, and 46% of total shipments, respectively, in 2021. Since China’s smartphone shipments may decrease by 16% in 2022, and recovery is limited in the short term, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo are expected to focus more on overseas markets in the future and the proportion of non-Chinese market shipments is expected to increase further.

(Image credit: Pexels)

2022-07-20

Global Quantum Computing Market Estimated to Reach US$580 Million in 2022, China in Leading Position

According to TrendForce, the global quantum computing market was valued at US$470 million in 2021, an increase of 16.7% compared to 2020. This market is mainly led by China and the United States, driving global quantum computing and its technological progress, especially in upper-layer software. In terms of algorithmic speed, small-scale problems have been put to the test through experimentation. The market is expected to reach US$580 million in 2022, with an annual growth rate of approximately 18.8%, and current growth rate expanding every year until 2027.

According to TrendForce, as stated in the Chinese government’s plan for software and information technology services, its quantum technology policy will be further implemented from a national level to departments including national defense, industry, and technology and more targeted policies will be released through tiered departmental levels such as for AI, quantum information technology, biotechnology, semiconductors, and autonomous systems. To this end, the Chinese government is establishing relevant laboratories in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hefei to promote the rapid development of quantum technology and quantum computing cloud platforms.

When China launched its “Five-Year Plan” in 2006 to promote economic and industrial development, it also focused on the development of quantum science and technological breakthroughs, as well as the deeply integrated development and application of quantum computing in emerging technologies such as AI, edge computing, big data, IoT, and cloud such as advanced space quantum communication technology and quantum computing combined with AI/ML, IoT, and cloud, providing assistance to the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ quantum satellites, the University of Science and Technology of China’s quantum computer, and other quantum processors to achieve breakthroughs in technology and functional characteristics. Therefore, the cumulative investment in China’s quantum field is estimated to reach US$15 billion in 2022.

Main applications of China’s quantum computing market

Considering the immense size, extremely harsh operating environment, and high price of quantum computers, quantum computing applications are rapidly developing towards cloud platforms. Therefore, research on quantum computers primarily focus on four types of applications: simulation, optimization, cryptography, and machine learning. “Simulation” is most used in processes that occur in nature such as weather forecasting, mid- and long-term climate deductions, and polar climate change. It is also widely used in fluid mechanics, drug discovery, battery design, and high-frequency trading, derivatives, and options pricing in the financial industry.

“Optimization” is the use of quantum algorithms to determine the best solution among a set of feasible options and is mostly used for risk management in traffic arteries, logistics, self-driving navigation systems, and financial investment portfolios. “Machine learning” is used to identify patterns in data and statistics, enhance the training of machine learning algorithms, accelerate AI development, and introduced to self-driving cars and financial systems to prevent fraud and money laundering.

As enumerated above, the scope of quantum computing applications is gradually expanding, covering fields including supply chain, finance, transportation, logistics, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, automobiles, aviation, energy, and meteorology. Sectors such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and new materials use quantum operations to analogize molecular properties, directly analyze and obtain large molecular properties through a computerized digital format, shorten the time for theoretical verification, and thereby accelerating drug research and development and the development of new materials.

In the automotive field, in order to accelerate the promotion of electrification strategies, major carmakers have applied quantum computing to chemical analogies and are committed to developing batteries with better performance. In the aerospace field, quantum computing is used to solve some of the most difficult challenges facing the aviation industry, from basic materials, product research and development, machine learning optimization, to complex system optimization, and are even changing the way aircraft are made and fly.

(Image credit: Pixabay)

2022-07-20

LCD TV Panel Pricing Falls to New Lows, Panel Factories Must Reduce Production

According to TrendForce, based on the quarterly supply-demand ratio, the difference in supply and demand in 1Q22 rose by 4.9% to 8.9% compared with 4Q22, much higher than supply and demand equilibrium at 5%. However, since panel makers still had room to build up inventories and IT panel pricing was still at a profitable level when at equilibrium, there remained an upside to panel makers’ overall operating interest, so there was no operation adjustment at the time.

Whether TV panel demand or IT panel demand, the magnitude of corrections began to intensify in 2Q22. Since the production capacity of panel manufacturers continues trending towards growth, the supply-demand ratio is expected to widen to 11.8% and the severity of the imbalance is set to return to 2008 financial crisis levels. As TVs account for nearly 70-80% of LCD production capacity, LCD TV panel quotations have again dropped, falling to record lows. For example, 32-inch HD quotations have fallen to US$28 and 43-inch FHDs have fallen to US$55.

In light of this situation, panel manufacturers have begun looking for solutions. Other than reducing the cost of upstream materials, the most effective way to buoy pricing is to control output, so news of production cuts began to appear in 2Q22. According to research from TRI, in 2Q22, the LCD glass output area of panel makers’ large generational fabs fell by 3.3% compared with their original planning. At the same time, due to Samsung’s announcement of progressively strict procurement control, TV panel shipments are expected to be downgraded by 1.2% compared with original planning. Therefore, the supply-demand ratio will not change much as panel makers reduce production in an insignificant manner.

No peak in peak season, production reduction in 3Q22 set in stone, stocking momentum expected to pick up in 4Q22

Moving into July 2022, in the past, Q3 was traditionally the time for panel stocking. Originally, panel manufacturers expected the seasonal effect to stabilize or even produce a slight rebound in TV panel prices but the market did not react as positively as panel manufacturers believed. The world’s largest TV brand Samsung once again revised its TV panel purchases downward in 3Q22 from its original plan of 14 million units to 8-8.5 million units. Rumors that purchase volume was even less than 8 million units cannot be ruled out, again pressuring TV panel quotations which were already under pressure to keep from selling at a loss. This news can be considered the straw that broke the market’s back.

If production is not reduced, the supply-demand ratio in 3Q22 will remain on par with the ratio before production cuts in 2Q22 (11.8%). It is conceivable that if inventory from 2Q22 added, panel makers will not only face the risk of an inventory explosion, but also if the price drops again, it cannot be ruled out that all panel sizes will ship at a loss in 3Q22 because pricing has gradually approached Bom Cost. Therefore, some panel makers have begun to plan a large-scale reduction in capacity utilization in 3Q22.

HKC, CSOT, AUO, and Sharp, who count Samsung as their primary customer, are among the panel factories that will see a significant reduction in capacity utilization in 3Q22. Huike, CSOT, and AUO have all planned to greatly reduce production by 32%, 20%, and 25%, respectively, compared with their original plans for their factory campuses. Considering the high cost of its Japanese factory, Sharp needs to maintain a high utilization rate. The company only adjusted Guangzhou Gen10.5, with overall utilization rate expected at only 70-75%.

As the LCD industry bellwether, BOE is facing external resistance. Currently, there are no plans to significantly reduce the capacity utilization rate of its entire production line, with utilization adjustment only planned for the Fuqing (B10) Gen8.5, Chengdu (B19) Gen8.6+, and Hefei (B9) Gen10.5 factory campuses. Overall impact is expected to be 10-15%. CHOT plans to reduce its capacity utilization rate by 10-15% in 3Q22 compared with their original plans due to accumulating more than a month of inventory of their main product, 50-inch TV panels.

If panel makers really control production as suggested by rumors, the supply-demand ratio will have a chance to move to 6.4% in 3Q22. Although a point close to equilibrium cannot be achieved immediately, effective output control will prevent the market from deteriorating further and facilitate advantageous price movement to mitigate or even stabilize the downtrend.

If panel makers continue to control capacity utilization in 4Q22, the price of LCD TV panels is expected to fall into a sweet spot, international brands are expected to perform purchase volume adjustments in Q2 and early spring in 2023, and Chinese brands will also stock up ahead of schedule in 4Q22. Market conditions are expected to have a chance to improve in 4Q22, with a good start for 2023. Otherwise, market conditions will deteriorate again in 4Q22, which will not only cast a shadow on the beginning of 2023, but may also force some panel makes to shut down certain factory campuses due to unbearable losses.

(Image credit: Pixabay)

2022-06-30

The High Cost of Taiwan’s Low Electricity Prices

(AmCham Taiwan|Contributing Writer: David Stinson & Angelica Oung)  Taiwan has some of the world’s lowest electricity prices. The question is why? With no domestic energy reserves, every lump of coal and drop of liquefied natural gas (LNG) – the mainstays of Taiwanese power generation – must be imported. Yet even as the prices of those commodities have soared on the global market, the price for residential power in Taiwan has stayed at NT$2.6253 per kilowatt-hour – a number that has remained unchanged since 2018.

Although the state-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) is traded on the Taiwan stock market, key decisions – including the price of power – are out of the company’s control. Instead, Taiwan’s electricity prices are set by a 17-member Power Tariff Review Committee, made up of experts and academics. The committee, which convenes twice a year, has a price formula that allows the rate to be increased by 3% every six months, or 6% annually. But for the past four years, it has consistently declined to raise prices, even as global oil prices have increased significantly since 2021.

International development bodies generally now advise against price subsidies for electricity. Experts argue that suppressing prices is an inefficient way to help people in the lower-income bracket – since the rich tend to consume more power, energy subsidies are poorly targeted. Moreover, making energy artificially cheap encourages the overuse of a scarce resource. Worst of all, taxpayers eventually end up paying the final price when electricity revenue cannot cover the cost of fuel and power generation infrastructure maintenance.

The reason for Taiwan’s continued suppression of electricity prices in the face of rising costs is political, says Chen Jong-Shun, research assistant at the Center for Green Economy at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER). Low electricity prices have long been seen as an implicit part of the social contract in Taiwan – a way for the state to care for the people.

“In fact, the amounts involved are not large,” says Chen, referring to the public expenditures required to keep prices from rising, as well as the public benefits from these subsidies. “The problem is that the costs are so widespread. Any breakfast stall, for instance, can see when prices increase, so it becomes a political issue.”

Price-sensitive voters are not the only constituency lobbying for discounted electricity prices. Taiwan’s export-driven economy also benefits from the low prices, with industrial rates ranking sixth lowest in the world. This impact is particularly significant for Taiwan’s highly successful semiconductor industry, which is exceptionally power-intensive. Power subsidies are therefore historically an important part of Taiwan’s economic development, says Chen.

Passing the buck

As electricity usage rises, economic planners face urgent questions about both the environmental and financial sustainability of Taiwan’s price support policy. State-owned oil refiner CPC Taiwan Corp. posted losses of NT$43.4 billion last year due to an ongoing government-mandated freeze on the price of natural gas, despite the commodity’s rising global cost. CPC is the natural gas supplier for Taipower, Taiwan’s primary electricity producer, and sold gas to Taipower for an average purchase price of NT$8.2929 per cubic meter in 2021. According to an April 12 statement by newly appointed CPC Chairman Lee Shun-chin, by the end of April, CPC’s cumulative losses could total NT$65 billion – equivalent to about half of its paid-in capital – if prices remain unchanged.

Although CPC recently raised its sales price of natural gas for electricity generation to NT$12.0873 per cubic meter, the number is still much lower than the company’s current purchase price of about NT$20. There are few signs that international prices will decrease anytime soon, and Taipower will be unable to absorb even the current pricing on an ongoing basis.

After earning NT$48 billion from operations last year, Taipower reported operational losses for the first two months of 2022, when the price it paid for natural gas was NT$11.4033 per cubic meter. Meanwhile, lack of profits has caused the upkeep and improvement of the nation’s power grid to be neglected.

Deputy Minister Tseng Wen-Sheng of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said in March that at least NT$100 billion would be needed this year to increase grid stability. Premier Su Tseng-Chang noted that this sum would be paid by the government, in contrast to previous years when it showed up on Taipower’s balance sheets. However, the final allocation of costs between Tai-power and the government has yet to be determined.

The National Development Council (NDC) has proposed that the state sector invest a collective NT$440 billion in energy-related upgrades by 2030, which will be an ongoing financial burden. Taipower has accumulated reserves worth NT$40 billion, an amount that can only temporarily support the upgrades. The utility has also yet to write off the estimated NT$285 billion loss from Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power plant, following a referendum vote last December to scuttle the project. Overall, it appears that the government’s attempts to stabilize prices have only created additional instability.

The MOEA has recognized that the current situation is a problem. When the Power Tariff Review Committee voted to freeze the price again, MOEA Minister Wang Mei-hua described electricity prices as “too cheap.” The committee is convened under the auspices of the MOEA and the government appoints nine of its 17 members, though it is supposed to act independently.

Taiwan has made sudden corrections to electricity prices before, although politics has always been in the background. Shortly after winning a presidential election, the Ma Ying-Jeou administration raised power prices twice in 2012 and 2013, amounting to a total increase of 16.7%. The 2018 price freeze also appeared to be politically timed, occurring shortly after a minor price increase following the election of President Tsai Ing-Wen. It seems no administration dares raise rates in the runup to an election. And the present moment is particularly tricky, as campaigning for the 2024 presidential election will begin almost immediately after the “nine-in-one” local elections this November. No clear political window for rebalancing thus exists until later in 2024.

Meanwhile, the EU is considering future border carbon tariffs to harmonize international energy transformation efforts. In response, Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a fee of US$10 per ton of carbon. This amount is easily eclipsed by the current price subsidies, as well as any conceivable price subsidies in the near future. Indeed, Taiwan’s practice of subsidizing electricity prices contradicts the government’s ambitious stated intentions to reach net zero by 2050. Partially as a result of the subsidies, Taiwan currently has the fifth-highest carbon emissions per capita among the world’s top 21 economies.

But system reform is in the works. By 2025, Taipower will be split into two entities: one for generation and another for distribution. This mechanism should allow for more market-based pricing, although many details remain undetermined, including practical responsibility for grid stability. This step will nevertheless mark a milestone in Taiwan’s reform of its power market.

No relief in sight

Taiwan’s energy transition will take place in an environment of persistently high fossil fuel prices. Global oil and gas prices are set to rise in the medium term as a result of pandemic recovery and, more recently, the war in Ukraine. These increases follow a long period of reduced investment in capacity after several years of pain for producers and are thus unlikely to be quickly counteracted.

Liang Chi-Yuan, an economics professor at National Central University and a former Minister Without Portfolio, anticipates that supply will decrease faster than demand as the world moves toward decarbonization, resulting in a seller’s market that could last a decade or more.

“In order to achieve net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests that starting from 2021, all new development of coal and oil fields should stop, which will decrease the supply of oil,” he says. “However, it also suggests that sales restrictions on news cars fueled by oil come much later, in 2035. These two factors might lead to supply shortages until 2035.”

Some opportunities for short-term adjustments by consumers exist, given functioning price signals. CIER’s Chen points to old air conditioners as low-hanging fruit, as they can become significantly less efficient after just a decade. Air conditioners were partially blamed for one of the major outages in May last year.

In the longer term, the energy transition will not only require changes in consumption patterns but also greater changes in industry structure. In some cases – such as last year’s referendum, which rejected nuclear power – prices will only be a background factor for individual decisions with complex upstream and downstream consequences. In the view of many experts, it is time for Taiwanese power consumers to start seeing its true price. Nevertheless, further steps to rationalize the market will take place in the context of financial pressure as the bills for many years of deferred reform come due.

Source: https://topics.amcham.com.tw/2022/05/the-high-cost-of-taiwans-low-electricity-prices/ 

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