Taiwan


2021-03-09

Persistent Shortage Results in Near 7% MoM Increase in Average Contract Price of Specialty DDR3 4Gb Chips in February, Says TrendForce

As the three dominant DRAM suppliers (Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron) are currently experiencing a shortage in their production capacities, the corresponding shortage situation in the DRAM market has yet to be resolved, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Taking advantage of the fact that the whole DRAM market has entered a period of cyclical upturn in 1Q21, DRAM suppliers have significantly raised quotes for specialty DRAM products. This extraordinary development has led to price hikes that are almost double digits for some specialty DRAM chips. Furthermore, the magnitude of the price hike especially widens for products belonging to the lower part of the density range and the more niche applications. Looking at MoM changes in contract prices of specialty DRAM products for February, DDR2 and DDR3 chips saw the largest price hikes. Prices of DDR4 chips also went up due to the influence of the rising quotes for DDR3 chips. The average contract price of DDR3 4Gb chips, which are still mainstream for specialty applications, jumped 6.8% MoM.

As for DDR3 2Gb chips that are primarily promoted by Taiwan-based suppliers, TrendForce indicates that there is not enough supply even as quotes are being offered. With this situation becoming the norm, the price range (i.e., the difference between the high and low prices) has also expanded dramatically. The average contract price of DDR3 2Gb chips rose by nearly 9% MoM in February. Samsung significantly raised quotes for DDR4 4Gb chips in response to the sharp upswing in prices of DDR3 chips. The low and average prices of DDR4 4Gb chips for specialty applications both climbed around 6% MoM. The average price of DDR4 8Gb chips went up by around 4% MoM as the price trend of this product aligns with the general price trends of mainstream PC DRAM and server DRAM products. However, it should be pointed out that the hikes in contract prices of specialty DRAM chips were mainly the result of the adjustments made to monthly contract deals and thus reflected the market situation of February. By contrast, prices held steady for quarterly lock-in deals with tier-1 clients.

While the three dominant DRAM suppliers have been slowing down their DDR3 manufacturing, Taiwanese suppliers are constantly adjusting their capacity allocation to maximize profits

With demand getting hotter in the specialty DRAM market, DDR3 products are starting to surpass DDR4 products and logic ICs in profit margin. Consequently, DRAM suppliers are also changing their strategies. Looking at South Korean suppliers, Samsung will continue shifting the wafer production capacity of Line 13 to CMOS image sensors over the long term. However, this reassignment has now been scaled down for this year due to the recent surge in specialty DRAM prices. Likewise, SK Hynix will keep the DRAM production capacity of its older fab M10 relatively constant through 2021 after reducing it in 2020. As for Micron, it has raised the yield rates of the 1Z-nm and 1-alpha processes, so the output shares of products based on these more advanced technologies will gradually expand. Since the available fab space in Taiwan is limited, Micron will relocate the 20nm and more mature processes to Fab 6 in the US. In sum, the output of DDR3 products from the three dominant suppliers will continue to shrink, but the pace of the reduction is now slower than originally expected.

Regarding Taiwan-based suppliers, Nanya has shifted some 20nm and 30nm production capacity from DDR4 products back to DDR3 products. Winbond has been focusing on Flash products in the recent years, and its DRAM production capacity will remain fairly limited until the completion of its new fab in Kaohsiung. Nevertheless, Winbond is concentrating its DRAM production efforts on low-density DDR2 and DDR3 products (i.e., 1Gb and 2Gb chips). It actually has the advantage of being able to raise prices as its market share for low-density products is fairly large. As for PSMC, it has been focusing on foundry manufacturing of logic ICs for a while. However, with prices now rising for foundry manufacturing of DDR3 products, PSMC now wants to shift some wafer production capacity back to DRAM. Going forward, the three Taiwan-based suppliers will keep adjusting their capacity allocation strategies in accordance with changes in the profit margins of different products. Nevertheless, even as suppliers are now changing their product mixes to take advantage of the latest market situation, TrendForce projects that specialty DRAM products will be in undersupply at least through 1H21. The magnitudes of price hikes for various types of specialty DRAM products will depend on suppliers’ capacity allocation strategies.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-03-05

Progress in Importation of US Equipment Dispels Doubts on SMIC’s Capacity Expansion for Mature Nodes for Now, Says TrendForce

The major suppliers of WFE (wafer fab equipment) in the US are progressing smoothly in the application for license from the US government for the exportation of equipment systems, equipment parts, and customer services for 14nm and above processes to Chinese foundry SMIC. The US-based equipment suppliers that are applying for the license include Applied Materials, Lam Research, KLA-Tencor, and Axcelis. TrendForce believes that as some support from US-based equipment suppliers is forthcoming, SMIC should be able to continue its efforts in the optimization of the mature process modules and overcoming production bottlenecks to avoid a scission in raw materials and spare parts, and predicts the company to sit at a global market share of 4.2% in 2021. Keeping SMIC in operation will provide a bit of relief to the capacity crunch in the global foundry market, however, the tightening of the available production capacity will remain a challenge that is difficult to resolve for the foundry industry as a whole. Also, the US government continues to prohibit SMIC from obtaining the equipment of the advanced nodes that are 10nm and below, and the particular restriction poses a potential risk for the long-term development of the Chinese foundry.

SMIC Continues to Expand Domestic Demand and Localization under China’s Explicit Direction in Long-Term Development of Semiconductor

As the fifth largest IC foundry in the world, SMIC obtains over 70% of revenue from China and Asia-Pacific. In terms of process node perspectives, 0.18um, 55nm, and 40nm contribute to the majority of revenue that totaled to over 80% from being applied on service platforms such as logic, BCD, eFlash, sensor, RF, and HV, and the coordination with the IC projects listed in the 13th and 14th Five-Year Plan of China will continue to enhance on the assimilation of localized WFE (wafer fab equipment) and raw materials.

The sanctions imposed by the US Department of Commerce that have affected the long-term planning in production capacity and development strategies of SMIC are expected to result in a YoY declination of 25% in the capital expenditure of 2021 for the Chinese foundry. SMIC intends to allocate the majority of its capital expenditure to capacity expansion for the mature nodes and the construction of a new joint-venture fab in Beijing, and is conservative towards investing in advanced process technology such as FinFET. TrendForce believes that geopolitical factors and uncertainties in the WFE section of the supply chain have compelled SMIC to scale back its capital expenditure and shift its development focus to the 55/40nm and 0.18um nodes.

A breakdown of SMIC’s revenue by region shows that more than 50% comes from China, though whether major global clients are willing to continue placing their orders with SMIC under the consideration of foundry selection and long-term cooperation amidst the unabated status in the semiconductor competition between China and the US will be a focus of observation going forward. Pertaining to the return on investment for technology scaling and mature node, the development planning in advanced processes for SMIC no longer succumb to immediacy in demand under restricted client conditions and constraints from subcontractors. On the other hand, the resources for chiplet and specialty IC that exert better functions for the operation of the company are focused on the existing 14nm and above matured processes to enhance on PDK (process design kits) for clients that may create a business model with prolonged profitability, as well as preserve R&D staffs and future growth dynamics.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

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