In recent years, China’s IC sales have been increasing year over year. Although sales have been suppressed by the United States and the impact of the pandemic, China’s IC sales still increased by 17% in 2020. Benefiting from the development of terminal applications such as 5G, online office, and smart cars, China’s IC sales grew by 18.2% in 2021 and it is expected to rise by 11.21% in 2022.
Currently, China’s 12-inch foundries are primarily owned by SMIC and Hua Hong Semiconductor. SMIC’s 12-inch fabs are located in Beijing and Shanghai while Hua Hong’s 12-inch fab is located in Wuxi. SMIC’s annual sales revenue in 2021 was US$5.44 billion, growing 39% YoY, and it posted net profit of US$1.775 billion, growing 147.76% YoY. From the perspective of revenue structure, 12-inch products contributed approximately 60% of SMIC’s revenue in the past year.
From the perspective of production capacity, SMIC’s capacity utilization rate has hovered around 100% in the past year. In 1Q22, SMIC’s capacity utilization rate was 100.4%, with a monthly production capacity of 613,400 units of 8-inch equivalent. . In 2021, new production capacity was 100,000 units/month (converted to 8 inches), of which 45,000 units/month was added as 8-inch wafers. At present, SMIC is still accelerating production expansion. Its project in Lingang, Shanghai has broken ground and its two projects in Beijing and Shenzhen are progressing steadily. Production is expected at these fabs by the end of 2022, mainly as 12-inch capacity.
Hua Hong Semiconductor posted operating income of US$1.631 billion in 2021, a YoY increase of 69.64%. From the perspective of revenue structure, Hua Hong Group primarily focused on 8-inch production capacity before 2020. As production commenced at Hua Hong Wuxi’s 12-inch project, Hua Hong completed the leap from 8 inches to 12 inch wafers. In the past year, Hua Hong’s average monthly production capacity of 8-inch wafers was 194,000 units and revenue was US$1.15 billion, accounting for 70.55% of total revenue. The average monthly production capacity of 12-inch wafers was 56,000 wafers and revenue was US$480 million, accounting for 29.45% of revenue, and the proportion of 12-inch revenue is increasing. In 1Q22, Hua Hong Semiconductor’s 12-inch revenue accounted for 44.1% of total revenue, an increase of 5 percentage points from the previous quarter. With the completion of the second phase of the Wuxi project, 12-inch revenue is expected to, once again, achieve substantial growth.
It is worth noting that since the Sino-US trade war, China’s substitution of domestic products has become mainstream, especially in the foundry and packaging and testing portions of the manufacturing process. In addition, the tense relationship between supply and demand and hobbled logistics caused by the pandemic has also catalyzed an increase in the proportion of fab revenue coming from China. From the perspective of wafer foundries, Hua Hong Semiconductor’s China revenue will account for 76% of total revenue in 1Q22. In terms of SMIC, although 4Q20 was categorized by an inability to manufacture Huawei orders and the proportion of revenue from China and Hong Kong fell from 69.7% in 3Q20 to 56.1% in 4Q20, as tension rose between supply and demand, lost Huawei orders have been taken up by other Chinese IC designers. In 1Q22, SMIC’s revenue from China and Hong Kong accounted for 68.4% of total revenue, a return to its peak level in 3Q20.
Behind record high sales of semiconductors is an unrelenting spike in demand. In order to alleviate the imbalance between supply and demand, the world’s major fabs are accelerating new production capacity and China’s fabs represented by SMIC and Hua Hong are also stepping up production expansion. From the perspective of the expansion structure, the current focus of fabs is still on the expansion of 12-inch wafers. The primary reason for this is that 12-inch wafers are characterized by higher production efficiency and lower unit consumables, with a comprehensive equipment supply chain. In the past two years, China has built a total of 11 projects involving 12-inch wafers. However, due to factors such as the pandemic, tide of production expansion, and lack of chips for equipment, the lead time of semiconductor equipment has been continuously drawn out, resulting in a slowdown in fab expansion. In addition, 8-inch capacity expansion is relatively slow due to equipment constraints. From the perspective of China’s foundry market, among new wafer production capacity (8 inch equivalent) from 2020 to 2021, 12 inch capacity accounted for 58.17%, 8 inch capacity accounted for 22%, and 6 inch capacity accounted for 19.83%.
Undaunted by deadlocked US-Sino relations, the great pandemic of 2020, and the US Department of Commerce’s ban on Huawei’s use of software and equipment produced by US manufacturers in the same year, China’s packaging and testing industry has, instead, used these factors as stimulus get back on track. Faced with these three major challenges, the Chinese government has responded with policies such as domestically producing both equipment and semiconductors, allowing China’s packaging and testing industry to buck the trends set in 2020. According to TrendForce statistics, industry revenue in 2020 reached US$7.02 billion and approximately US$9.53 billion in 2021.
A brief summary of China’s packaging and testing industry in recent years is as follows: the US-Sino trade war has been raging since 2018 and, due to tariff issues and the gradual rise in personnel salaries, terminal manufacturers whom had already established plants or subsidiaries in China were forced to gradually relocate relevant factories to SE Asia and India in order to avoid growing overhead costs, moreover impacting the revenue performance of China’s packaging and testing industry. As of June 2019, the tariff issue remained unresolved due to dubious US.-Sino relations but this issue could no longer impede the revenue recovery momentum of China’s packaging and testing industry.
Packaging and testing and localized equipment skirts bans and a moderate threshold for technology research and development attracts overseas manufacturers
After the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed export control bans on Huawei, HiSilicon, and SMIC, the market mostly predicted that China’s packaging and testing industry would be hit next but this did not happen. According to TrendForce, the primary reason for this is that the nature of current back-end packaging and testing technology is relatively crude compared to front-end wafer manufacturing and, considering Chinese government’s recent policy of localizing equipment and the degree of substitutability of non-US equipment manufacturers, even if the U.S. Department of Commerce proposes further bans against the industry, its effects will be limited.
In response to the US-Sino trade conflict, the Chinese government has proposed relevant measures such as semiconductor autonomy which has driven a gradual mainstreaming of domestic equipment production plans. In addition, national funds have been continuously injected into semiconductor equipment manufacturers, even though the level of technological development at this stage remains inferior to major manufacturers in Europe, the United States, and Japan. However, for those with modest requirements for back-end process conditions, testing, and testing equipment, China’s domestic packaging and testing equipment does have a certain proportion and scale.
For example, relevant companies such as Hangzhou Changchuan and Shanghai Raintree have invested in the automatic optical inspection instruments (AOI) and testing equipment that are required in the latter stage of packaging and testing. On the other hand, due to the relatively low threshold for research and development of back-end packaging and testing equipment, many international companies such as Japan’s Advantest and Singapore’s Besi have also set up shops in China. Chinese packaging and testing and their equipment manufacturers are essentially unaffected by relevant export bans, so the industry can still anticipate technological and revenue performance in the next few years.
Although the demand for end products related to the stay-at-home economy slowed down as many countries saw rising vaccination rates and were partially lifting social distancing restrictions, the decline in foundry orders from this source was more than offset by the traditional peak season for smartphones, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. At the same time, OEMs for notebook (laptop) computers, networking devices, automotive electronics, and IoT devices kept vigorously building up their inventories because the earlier capacity crunch in the foundry market was constraining them from reaching their shipment targets. Because of these developments, demand continued to outstrip supply in the foundry market during 3Q21. As for foundries, they have been gradually taking on new production capacity in the recent period and gaining from the ongoing rise in the ASP. Thanks to robust demand, new production capacity, and rising wafer prices, the quarterly total foundry revenue rose by 11.8% QoQ to reach a new record high of US$27.28 billion for 3Q21. This result indicated nine consecutive quarters of revenue growth.
Top four foundries posted double-digit revenue growth for 3Q21 due to peak season for smartphones; SMIC’s revenue growth was slightly limited by restrictions imposed on its capacity expansions
TSMC raised its quarterly revenue by 11.9% QoQ to US$14.88 billion as it benefited from the release of new iPhone models. The foundry remained firmly at the top of the ranking in 3Q21. Regarding TSMC’s revenue generation by node, the combined revenue share of the 7nm and 5nm nodes has already surpassed 50% and is still expanding thanks to continued demand for smartphone chips and HPC chips. Samsung raised its revenue by 11% QoQ to US$4.81 billion for 3Q21 and sat firmly in second place. The revenue growth was attributed to several factors. First, the releases of new smartphone models during the second half of the year has spurred the demand for SoCs and DDIs. Second, fab Line S2 in Austin has returned to its normal level of revenue contribution following the recovery from the winter storm that struck Texas in the earlier part of this year. Third, fab Line S5 in Pyeongtaek has activated its newly added production capacity. And finally, the revenue result for 2Q21 was a low base for comparison and thus led to a rather impressive performance for 3Q21.
UMC made significant gains in 3Q21 because the activation of new production capacity for its 28/22nm nodes led to an increase in wafer input for OLED driver ICs and other components. This also caused a rise in its blended ASP. UMC’s revenue went up by 12.2% QoQ to US$2.04 billion for 3Q21. With a growth rate that surpassed the top two ranking leaders, UMC retained third place by overtaking GlobalFoundries in the ranking for the first time in 1Q20, and its lead has been gradually widening since then. GlobalFoundries posted a QoQ increase of 12% in revenue to US$1.71 billion for 3Q21 and kept fourth place in the ranking. To address the worldwide chip shortage, GlobalFoundries has announced a series of capacity expansions and greenfield projects this year. Existing plants including Fab1 in Dresden and Fab8 in Malta (which is a town in the state of New York) will take on new production capacity. New plants will also be built in Singapore and Malta. It is worth noting that the capacity expansions and greenfield projects that GlobalFoundries has revealed so far for this year will be financed via a public-private partnership model. GlobalFoundries will be leveraging funding from governments and advance payments from its clients to reduce the pressure of rising capital expenditure and ensure that the new production capacity will operate at a high utilization rate in the future.
SMIC increased its revenue by 5.3% QoQ to US$1.42 billion for 3Q21 and was ranked fifth. Two reasons were behind the revenue growth. First, there is a stable level of demand for its PMICs, Wi-Fi chips, MCUs, and RFICs. Second, SMIC has been steadily raising wafer prices. It is also worth pointing out that SMIC has been adjusting its product mix and client base due to geopolitical factors. Growing consistently over the quarters, the share of Chinese clients in SMIC’s client base came to almost 70% in 3Q21. Under the impetus of the semiconductor policies of the Chinese government, SMIC will continue to give priority to the demand from domestic clients. Hence, the portion of foreign clients in its incoming orders will gradually shrink relative to that of domestic clients.
Second- and third-tier foundries posted higher revenue growth rates compared with first-tier counterparts because of strong demand for mature nodes
HuaHong Group posted a QoQ increase of 21.4% in revenue to US$799 million for 3Q21, thereby taking sixth place in the ranking. HuaHong continues to raise its ASP as it production capacity is expected to be fully loaded through the whole 2021. This development, together with the successful capacity expansion undertaken at its Fab7 in Wuxi, contributed to the above-expected revenue result for the foundry. PSMC’s revenue growth continued to pick up pace in 3Q21 thanks to the general rise in wafer prices and the robust demand for the main categories of chip products (e.g., DDIs, PMICs, CIS, and power discretes such as MOSFETs and IGBTs). PSMC raised its quarterly revenue by 14.4% QoQ to US$525 million and was ranked seventh.
After surpassing Tower Semiconductor in the ranking for the first time in 2Q21, VIS maintained its strong growth momentum by posting a QoQ increase of 17.5% in revenue to US$426 million in 3Q21 on account of several factors. First, VIS increased its products shipments through capacity expansion. Furthermore, VIS was able to optimize its product mix and raise its ASP. It secured eighth place in the ranking. Occupying ninth place in the ranking, Tower Semiconductor’s performance exceeded expectations for 3Q21 with its revenue climbing 6.9% QoQ to US$387 million. Tower’s revenue generation mainly benefited from the stable demand related to RF-SOI chips, industrial sensor chips, and PMICs.
Taking the tenth place in the ranking, DB HiTek registered a 15.6% QoQ increase in revenue to a record high of US$283 million for 3Q21 because of the rising ASP. In the past year, DB HiTek kept its capacity utilization rate at almost 100%. To raise its overall output, the foundry has decided to focus its expansion efforts on its existing wafer production lines. As a result, its production capacity has been increasing slightly since 2Q21. The additional production capacity will effectively contribute to its revenue generation in 4Q21.
Moving into 4Q21, although foundries have undertaken various capacity expansions and greenfield projects, their new production capacity that has been activated this year is already completely booked. The new fabs that foundries have announced will need some time to get built and fully set up, so the chip shortage on the whole will unlikely ease off anytime soon. On the demand side, sales have weakened a bit for TVs and other end products associated with the stay-at-home economy. However, the hardware and infrastructure demand related to 5G, Wi-Fi 6, and IoT continues to gain momentum. Moreover, OEMs for consumer electronics are still stocking up on components in preparation for the year-end holiday sales. Based on the latest examination of incoming foundry orders, TrendForce finds that foundries will continue to operate at fully-loaded capacity. Due to the undersupply situation, the overall ASP of the foundry market has also been climbing. Meanwhile, foundries have been optimizing their product mixes to boost their financial performances. Taking account of this and other aforementioned developments, TrendForce believes that revenue growth will continue for the top 10 foundries in 4Q21. However, 4Q21 will also see more moderate growth compared with the previous quarter because there is a shortage of peripheral ICs made using mature process nodes. Additionally, demand has slacked a bit for some SoC products.
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In recent years, China has been aggressively pursuing the build-out of an independent semiconductor supply chain as it attempts to eschew dependence on foreign suppliers. The key to China’s success is whether it can establish domestic suppliers of semiconductor equipment.
Looking at the current state of China’s semiconductor independence, it should be pointed out that Chinese suppliers of semiconductor equipment have been making the greatest progress on the CMP, etching, and cleaning fronts, while lagging behind in terms of deposition, ion implantation, and photolithography.
CMP equipment is used for polishing silicon wafers and metallic/non-metallic thin films. TrendForce estimates that about 26% of all such equipment procured by Chinese foundries in 2020 was sourced from domestic companies. CMP equipment manufactured by Chinese brands can support process technologies as advanced as the 14nm node, which is sufficient for meeting the current demand of Chinese foundries.
An indispensable aspect of silicon or dielectric etch applications, about 24% of all etching equipment procured by Chinese foundries in 2020 was sourced from domestic companies. Chinese-manufactured etching equipment can currently support process technologies as advanced as the 5nm node.
Used for cleaning wafers after the deposition process, CMP process, etching process, and ion implantation process, about 23% of all cleaning equipment procured by Chinese foundries in 2020 was sourced from domestic companies.
Cleaning equipment manufactured by Chinese brands can support process technologies as advanced as the 14nm node. Remarkably, more Chinese companies have been entering this market segment compared to other semiconductor equipment, while some Chinese suppliers are already able to compete with major foreign suppliers in terms of market shares.
Used for PVD, CVD, and ALD processes, about 10% of all deposition equipment procured by Chinese foundries in 2020 was domestically sourced. Chinese-manufactured deposition equipment can support process technologies as advanced as the 14nm node. However, as the technological barrier for manufacturing these products is relatively high, Chinese suppliers are still in the process of catching up to their global competitors in terms of technology. Hence, it remains difficult for Chinese suppliers to continue raising their market shares in the short run.
Likewise, as the technological barrier for manufacturing ion implantation and photolithography equipment is relatively high, equipment from Chinese suppliers is unlikely to support advanced process technologies in the short run despite these suppliers’ aggressive R&D efforts. In terms of self-sufficiency, about 5% and 1% of all ion implantation equipment and photolithography equipment, respectively, procured by Chinese foundries in 2020 was domestically manufactured.