According to TrendForce forecasts, average overall DRAM pricing in 2Q22 will drop by approximately 0~5%, due to marginally higher buyer and seller inventories coupled with the demand for products such as PCs, laptops, and smartphones being influenced in the short-term by the Russian-Ukrainian war and high inflation weakening consumer purchasing power. At present, the only remaining source of demand is on the server-side, so overall DRAM stocks will remain oversupplied in 2Q22.
In terms of PC DRAM, PC OEMs are adopting a conservative stocking strategy for orders in 2Q22 due to the Russian-Ukrainian war, which may continue affecting orders during peak season in 2H22, and revising 2022 shipment targets downwards. Additionally, the overall supply of bits is still growing, so the PC DRAM price slump in 2Q22 will further expand to 3~8% and may continue to deteriorate.
In terms of server DRAM, the current server DRAM inventory level held by cloud service providers and enterprise clients is roughly the same as the amount held in 1Q22, and this relatively high inventory level is not enough to support a price reversal. The supply rate of server DRAM, of which there is still an oversupply, remains higher than 100% and this situation will continue into 2Q22. However, a price decline in 2Q22 is expected to converge at 0~5%, coinciding with the peak seasonal stocking surge.
In terms of Mobile DRAM, due to a number of factors such as high inflation, changes in the pandemic situation in various countries, and the Russian-Ukrainian war, it cannot be ruled out that the production volume of smartphones may continue to decline while smartphone brands will surely be more careful when planning production and material preparation. On the supply side, technology migration in manufacturing has offset the shift of DRAM production to the server DRAM field beginning in 2H21, maintaining the level of the mobile DRAM bit supply. For this reason, since the production targets of smartphone brands have fallen and the average memory capacity of a single device has not significantly improved, oversupply is forecast to continue in 2Q22, with pricing set to decline approximately 0~5%.
In terms of Graphics DRAM, the demand side has been affected by weak virtual currency prices in recent months which has gradually started to assuage demand for graphics cards. The supply side is facing supply constraints and a vendor shortage since Micron will withdraw from the GDDR6 8Gb supply in 2Q22. This will cause a temporary supply-demand imbalance for Graphics DRAM as the capacity allocation of Korean manufacturers fail to immediately fill the above-mentioned shortfall. Even if terminal demand slows down, considering GDDR6 8Gb remains mainstream in the current market, it will take time for manufacturers to convert specifications to 16Gb. Pricing is forecast to increase by 0~5% in 2Q22.
In terms of consumer DRAM, demand for DDR3 from specific products such as WiFi 6 and 5G base stations remains robust. The quantity of DRAM supplied to the market varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Samsung and SK Hynix have gradually reduced production of DDR3, while Taiwanese firm Nanya Tech has recently shifted production to DDR3, owing to DDR3’s higher gross profit margin. Due to relatively stable demand and limited shipments from Korean manufacturers, the price of DDR3 will increase by 3~8% in 2Q22 with DDR4 maintaining a downward price trend.
In 4Q21, NAND Flash bit shipments grew by only 3.3% QoQ, a significant decrease from the nearly 10% in 3Q21, according to TrendForce’s investigations. ASP fell by nearly 5% and the overall industry posted revenue of US$18.5 billion, a QoQ decrease of 2.1%. This was primarily due to a decline in the purchase demand of various products and a market shift to oversupply causing a drop in contract prices. In 4Q21, with the exception of enterprise SSD, the supply of which was limited by insufficient upstream components, the prices of other NAND Flash products such as eMMC, UFS, and client SSD, all fell.
TrendForce’s summary of NAND Flash market sales performance in 2021 is as follows: although there have been signs of weakening since 2H21, thanks to remote services and cloud demand driven by the pandemic, revenue performance still grew significantly compared to 2020. Revenue reached US$68.6 billion, up 21.1% YoY, the second-biggest increase since 2018.
NAND Flash revenue fell for most manufactures in 4Q21 due to PC OEM destocking
There were some changes to the top three NAND Flash revenue rankings in 4Q21 compared 3Q21, Samsung and Kioxia remained in the top two while third place was replaced by Western Digital (WDC). Although there was still demand coming from data centers, as PC OEMs continued to deplete client SSD inventories and demand from China’s smartphone market weakened, stocking momentum was affected by component mismatch issues, resulting in a decline of approximately 5% in Samsung Electronics’ bit shipments in 4Q21. After the market shifted to oversupply, ASP also fell by approximately 5%, leading to Samsung Electronics posting 4Q21 revenue of US$6.110 billion, a QoQ decrease of 6.1%.
Second ranked Kioxia continued seeing strong demand from data center clients in 4Q21 but this was offset by inventory adjustment and reduced purchasing on the part of PC OEMs. Bit shipments declined slightly by 1% and ASP remained flat even in the face of weakening market demand, which was better performance than that of other suppliers in the same period. Revenue in 4Q21 reached US$3.543 billion, a QoQ decrease of 2.6%.
WDC was another company that benefited from continued strong stocking demand from major US smartphone clients for new 5G flagship phones which offset the impact of weak client and enterprise SSD sales, for bit shipment growth of 13%. However, as the proportion of consumer goods grew, ASP declined by 6%. WDC’s NAND Flash division posted 4Q21 revenue of US$2.62 billion, a QoQ increase of 5.2%.
Benefiting from continued stocking from data center clients and US-based smartphone brands, SK hynix’s bit shipment growth remained above 10%, in line with original forecasts. However, ASP was affected by weaker mobile phone shipments in China and inventory adjustment at PC OEMs. Pricing fell by nearly 10% which offset overall growth momentum. Revenue posted by SK hynix’s NAND Flash division in 4Q21 increased by 2.8% to US$2.615 billion.
Micron was similarly affected by inventory adjustments undertaken on the part of PC OEMs and data center clients. Although Micron’s 176-layer products continue to be adopted, shipments in 4Q21 were flat compared to 3Q21 and ASP fell approximately 5% as the growth rate of supply outpaced demand, leading to a decline of 4.7% in Micron’s 4Q21 NAND Flash revenue to US$1.878 billion.
Solidigm’s 4Q21 production capacity was still being affected by the impact of supply chains (such as PMIC supply) on enterprise SSD, resulting in a continued decline in bit shipments of nearly 5% in 4Q21. At the same time, while orders for laptops are still strong, Solidigm actively increased bits shipments of PC QLC SSDs in order to reduce production capacity, causing a drop in ASP and a 4Q21 NAND Flash revenue performance of only US$996 million, a 9.9% decline.
Looking forward to 1Q22, TrendForce states that with the advent of the demand off-season, demand for major applications will show a seasonal decline, exacerbating the phenomenon of oversupply and driving the contract price of products to fall further. Falling prices and shrinking volume is expected to further reduce the revenue level of the NAND Flash industry. Referencing information released by TrendForce on Feb. 10, it is worth noting that market expectant psychological factors in 2Q22 generated from the previous Kioxia and WDC raw material pollution incidents will change the supply and demand situation after February and certain products with additional orders and non-quarterly contract prices will immediately reflect a pricing increase. This will help reduce the decline in the output value of NAND Flash in 1Q22.
WDC recently stated that certain materials were contaminated in late January at NAND Flash production lines in Yokkaichi and Kitakami, Japan which are joint ventures with Kioxia, according to TrendForce’s investigations. Before this incident, TrendForce had forecast that the NAND Flash market will see a slight oversupply the entire year and average price from Q1 to Q2 will face downward pressure. However, the impact of WDC’s material contamination issue is significant and Samsung’s experience during the previous lockdown of Xi’an due to the pandemic has also retarded the magnitude of the NAND Flash price slump. Therefore, the Q1 price drop will diminish to 5~10%. In addition, according to TrendForce, the combined WDC/Kioxia NAND Flash market share in the 3Q21 was as high as 32.5%. The consequences of this latest incident may push the price of NAND Flash in Q2 to spike 5~10%.
The contaminated products in this incident are concentrated in 3D NAND (BICS) with an initial estimate of 6.5exabytes (approximately 6,500M GB) affected. According to TrendForce, damaged bits account for 13% of the group’s output in 1Q22 and approximately 3% of the total output for the year. The normal production schedule for the entire line has yet to be confirmed. It is worth noting that the damages announced by WDC likely do not account for total losses stemming for this event and the number of damaged Kioxia parts has not been aggregated, so the total number of affected bits may increase further.
Production primarily focused on Client SSD and eMMC, subsequent spot pricing may climb
Currently, WDC and Kioxia are focused on supplying PC client SSD and eMMC products. Since WDC is the number two and number one supplier in the client SSD and eMMC markets, respectively, subsequent supply will inevitably be hampered. Therefore, even if production demand for PC OEM is revised downward in Q2, client SSD prices may remain resistant to decline. In terms of enterprise SSD, Kioxia PCIe 4.0 has been verified by a number of customers and the company’s market share in 2022 was originally forecast to increase. However, this incident will impact Kioxia’s ability to ship product and further affect subsequent customer procurement. Therefore, in order for buyers to satisfy their own production requirements, a Q2 decline in enterprise SSD product pricing will be largely restrained.
In addition, as buyers and sellers in the spot market are still clarifying events and incident assessments, they mostly responded by suspending quotations, with no new quotations having been generated. However, TrendForce’s assessment indicates that subsequent events will obviously stimulate spot price appreciation. Judging from contract pricing, any orders negotiated on a whole quarter basis should be unaffected in the near-term but there may be an immediate price increase in wafer quotations this February and March.
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