According to TrendForce research, in general, revenue of Taiwanese IC design companies grew significantly in 2021 with many hitting record highs due to active procurement of various terminal applications and the effect of product price inflation. These companies also performed well in terms of gross profit margin and profitability. The top 10 Taiwanese IC design companies generated revenue of NT$906.16 billion, or 54.3% YoY. In recent years, MediaTek has contributed more than half of the output value of Taiwan’s top ten IC design companies and has become a primary factor in the growth of Taiwan’s IC design industry.
Looking at Taiwan’s top three IC design companies, MediaTek, Novatek, and Realtek, in 1Q22, MediaTek benefited from the increase in 5G penetration and successive shipments of Dimensity 9000. A mobile phone release in March 2022 produced revenue growth which can offset lower demand for certain consumer products due to seasonal factors while the proportion of high-margin products in each revenue category will increase. Thus, annual revenue growth is expected to exceed 20% this year.
As for Novatek, although DDI and TDDI stocking has entered the off-season for traditional industries and demand for consumer electronics has weakened, overall market demand is still greater than supply and Commercial Notebook and Automotive demand remain strong. New products such as OLED FoD, OLED TDDI, FTDDI, and Mini LED will drive continued revenue stability. This year, Novatek will integrate TCON, PMIC, etc. for package sales, so that there is a relative price support, but the company must still dynamically adjust its product mix according to market changes.
In terms of Realtek, positive demand in the enterprise, industrial, and automotive sectors in 2H21 will continue to 1H22. With the pandemic slowing down, purchasing of commercial laptops and equipment has ramped up, wired and wireless network infrastructure is being upgraded, the automotive market continues to grow, and relevant products such as Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E, 5G Ethernet, and the new LE Audio Bluetooth IC are being launched successively, which will continue to improve Realtek’s performance. On the consumer market side, demand in the PC and consumer electronics markets will return to normal in 2022 and the TWS Bluetooth headset market will face a price war, which will lead to a suppression of Realtek’s shipments in relevant sectors. Regarding foundry price hikes, some customers have reported that they cannot afford further price inflation and are still in the process of negotiating terms of cooperation. In addition, Realtek has been destocking in 1Q22 due to the customer yearend inventory audits and component mismatching.
Taking a comprehensive look at 2022, TrendForce believes that the benefits of price inflation will gradually fade and demand for consumer electronics will moderate but not weaken significantly, while sustained strong demand for industrial, automotive, and high-speed computing will test the product portfolio optimization and cost pass-through ability of IC design companies.
From 2020 to 2025, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12-inch equivalent wafer capacity at the world’s top ten foundries will be approximately 10% with the majority of these companies focusing on 12-inch capacity expansion, which will see a CAGR of approximately 13.2%, according to TrendForce’s research. In terms of 8-inch wafers, due to factors such as difficult to obtain equipment and whether capacity expansion is cost-effective, most fabs can only expand production slightly by means of capacity optimization, equating to a CAGR of only 3.3%. In terms of demand, the products primarily derived from 8-inch wafers, PMIC and Power Discrete, are driven by demand for electric vehicles, 5G smartphones, and servers. Stocking momentum has not fallen off, resulting in a serious shortage of 8-inch wafer production capacity that has festered since 2H19. Therefore, in order to mitigate competition for 8-inch capacity, a trend of shifting certain products to 12-inch production has gradually emerged. However, if shortages in overall 8-inch capacity is to be effectively alleviated, it is still necessary to wait for a large number of mainstream products to migrate to 12-inch production. The timeframe for this migration is estimated to be close to 2H23 into 2024.
PMIC and Audio Codec gradually transferred to 12-inch production, alleviating shortage of 8-inch production capacity
At present, mainstream products produced using 8-inch wafers include large-sized panel Driver IC, CIS, MCU, PMIC, Power Discrete (including MOSFET, IGBT), Fingerprint, Touch IC, and Audio Codec. Among them, there are plans to gradually migrate Audio Codec and some more severely backordered PMICs to the 12-inch process.
In terms of PMICs, other than certain PMICs used in Apple iPhones already manufactured at 12-inch 55nm, most mainstream PMIC processes are still at 8-inch 0.18-0.11μm. Burdened with the long-term supply shortage, IC design companies including Mediatek, Qualcomm, and Richtek have successively planned to transfer some PMICs to 12-inch 90/55nm production. However, since product process conversion requires time-consuming development and verification and total current production capacity of the 90/55nm BCD process is limited, short term relief to 8-inch production capacity remains small. Effective relief is expected in 2024 when large swathes of mainstream products migrate to 12-inch production.
In terms of Audio Codec, Audio Codecs for laptops are primarily manufactured on 8-inch wafers, and Realtek is the main supplier. In the 1H21, the squeeze on capacity delayed lead times which affected notebook computers shipments. Although the stocking efforts of certain tier1 customers proceeded smoothly in the second half of the year, these products remained difficult to obtain for some small and medium-sized customers. At present, Realtek has partnered with Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) to transfer the process development of laptop Audio Codecs from 8-inch to 12-inch 55nm. Mass production is forecast for mid-2022 and is expected to improve Audio Codec supply.
In addition to PMIC/Power Discrete, another mainstream product derived from 8-inch manufacturers is the large-sized panel Driver IC. Although most fabs still manufacture 8-inch wafers, Nexchip provides a 12-inch 0.11-0.15μm process technology used to produce large-sized Driver ICs. As production capacity at Nexchip grows rapidly, the supply of this product has been quite smooth. However, TrendForce believes that this is a special case. Mainstream large-sized Driver ICs are still manufactured on 8-inch wafers and there is no trend to switch to 12-inch wafers.
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