Market conditions in 2022 are chaotic and demand for chips fluctuate according to application. However, the IC design industry is driven by major manufacturers and the sales performance of high-end product portfolios such as data center, server, networking, industrial computing, automotive, and high performance computing will remain stable The overall market will grow to $182.9 billion, an annual increase of 14.4%.
At present, the overall industry is being negatively affected by weak demand for consumer electronics. In addition, the tightening of financing and the expectation of a wider economic recession further strengthen pessimistic attitudes. There is no opportunity for chip demand to reinvigorate in the short term, not to mention that the supply chain is already dealing with full inventories. A return of the traditional industry peak season in 2H23 will stabilize purchasing power while flat to single-digit growth in the IC design industry would be a relatively good scenario.
R&D expenses positively correlated with manufacturer revenue, AMD posts best performance in 1H22
In 1H22, R&D expenses at major IC design houses were positively related to revenue in general. The use of advanced manufacturing processes requires strong R&D capabilities, accounting for 15-35% of revenue. AMD is the most active among U.S. companies. After acquiring Xilinx and Pensando, AMD has aggressively invested in the research and development of data center-related product portfolios. In 2Q22, R&D expenditures increased by 97.2% YoY. In terms of Asian manufacturers, the impact of the poor consumer electronics market is severe and revenue growth momentum has all but disappeared. Therefore, the synchronization of R&D expenditure with revenue is also more conservative. Novatek, Willsemi, and LX Semicon product portfolios are dominated by mature processes such as DDIC and CIS with R&D/ revenue ratios below 15%.
IC design industry inventory on red alert, inventory adjustment to become a challenge by 2Q23
The IC design industry has accumulated inventory since 3Q21 and the annual growth rate of inventory has climbed to more than 50% in 1H22. Compared with the annual growth rate of revenue, the difference among American manufacturers is 20% and the difference among Asian manufacturers is 46%, indicating that inventory issues among Asian manufacturers is more serious.
The inventory levels of consumer electronics-related industries such as Smartphone, TV, Tablet, PC/notebook, and Panel, are at a 6 month level. The supply chains of IC design houses and distributors/agents are also holding substantial inventory. The inventory-to-revenue ratio of IC design houses has reached a red alert threshold of over 50%. With no improvement in demand, expectations that inventory destocking will be completed by the end of 2022 may be dashed. At present, IC design houses are desperately reducing booked foundry production capacity for high-inventory mid-level AP, DDIC, and Consumer PMIC/GPU products. If the consumer electronics market outlook remains poor in 4Q22, IC design houses could also claim a greater amount of inventory depreciation as losses. In general by 2Q23, IC design houses will continue to test their strategies for new product development, production planning, and product sales during the process of destocking the overall supply chain.
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Not only did automotive market take a downward turn starting in 2018, but the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 also led to noticeably insufficient procurement activities from major automotive module suppliers, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. However, as the automotive market is currently set to make a recovery, TrendForce expects yearly vehicle sales to increase from 77 million units in 2020 to 84 million units in 2021.
At the same time, the rising popularity of autonomous, connected, and electric vehicles is likely to lead to a massive consumption of various semiconductor components. Even so, since most manufacturers in the automotive supply chain currently possess a relatively low inventory, due to their sluggish procurement activities last year in light of weak demand, the discrepancies in the inventory levels of various automotive components, along with the resultant manufacturing bottleneck, have substantially impaired automakers’ capacity utilization rates and, subsequently, vehicle shipments.
The recent shortage situation in the IC supply chain has gradually extended from consumer electronics and ICT products to the industrial and automotive markets. In the past, manufacturers in the automotive semiconductor industry were primarily based on IDM or fab-lite business models, such as NXP, Infineon, STMicroelectronics, Renesas, ON Semiconductor, Broadcom, TI, etc. As automotive ICs generally operate in wide temperature and high voltage circumstances, have relatively long product lifecycle, and place a heavy demand on reliability as well as longevity support, it is more difficult for the industry to alternatively transition its production lines and supply chains elsewhere.
Automotive semiconductor remains in shortage as production capacities remain fully loaded across the global foundry industry
Nevertheless, given the current shortage of production capacities across the foundry industry, wafer capacities allocated to automotive semiconductor components have been noticeably crowded out by other products. Some of these examples include automotive MCU and CIS manufactured in 12-inch fabs, as well as MEMS, Discrete, PMIC, and DDI products manufactured in 8-inch fabs. TrendForce indicates that automotive semiconductor products manufactured at the 28nm, 45nm, and 65nm nodes in 12-inch fabs are suffering the most severe shortage at the moment, while production capacities at 0.18µm and above nodes in 8-inch fabs have also been in long queue by other products.
As in-house IDM fabrications have relatively high CAPEX, R&D expense, and operating overhead, automotive IC vendors have in recent years outsourced some of their products to TSMC, GlobalFoundries, UMC, Samsung, VIS, Win Semiconductor and so on. In particular, TSMC specifically indicated during its 4Q20 earnings conference that wafer starts for automotive semiconductors reached rock bottom in 3Q20, while additional orders began arriving in 4Q20. As such, the company is currently considering allocating some of its production capacities from logic ICs to specialty foundry, in order to meet sudden demand from its long-term customer relationship.
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