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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According to TrendForce research, due to the vigorous stocking of various terminal applications causing a shortage of wafers in 2021, the global IC industry was severely undersupplied. This, coupled with spiking chip prices, boosted the 2021 revenue of the global top ten IC design companies to US$127.4 billion, or 48% YoY.
TrendForce further indicates three major disparities from the 2020 ranking. First, NVIDIA surpassed Broadcom to take the second position. Second, Taiwanese companies Novatek and Realtek rose to sixth and eighth place, respectively. Originally ranked tenth, Dialog was replaced at this position by Himax after Dialog was acquired by IDM giant Renesas.
Qualcomm continues its reign as number one in the world, primarily due to 51% and 63% growth YoY in sales of mobile phone SoC (System on Chip) and IoT chips, respectively. The addition of diversified development in its RF and automotive chip businesses was key to a 51% increase in revenue. NVIDIA implemented the integration of software and hardware, demonstrating its ambitions in creating a “comprehensive computing platform.” Driven by the annual growth of gaming graphics card and data center revenue at 64% and 59%, respectively, NVIDIA successfully climbed to second place. Broadcom benefited from the stable sales performance of network chips, broadband communication chips, and storage and bridging chips, with revenue growing 18% YoY. AMD’s computer and graphics revenue grew by 45% YoY due to strong sales of the Ryzen CPU and Radeon GPU and rising average selling price. Coupled with accelerating demand from cloud companies, the annual revenue of AMD’s enterprise, embedded, and semi-customized divisions increased by 113%, driving annual growth of total revenue to 68%.
In terms of Taiwanese firms, MediaTek’s strategy of focusing on mobile phone SoC has produced miraculous results. Benefiting from an increase in 5G penetration, the sales performance of MediaTek’s mobile phone product portfolio surged by 93% and the company has committed to increasing the proportion of high-end product portfolios, resulting in 61% annual revenue growth. Novatek’s two major product lines of SoC and display driver IC have both grown significantly. Due to improved product specifications, increased shipments, and beneficial pricing gains, revenue grew by 79% YoY, the highest among the top ten. Realtek has been driven by strong demand for Netcom and commercial notebook products, while the performance of audio and Bluetooth chips remains quite stable, conferring an annual revenue growth of 43%. Himax joins the top ten ranking for the first time in 2021. Due to significant annual revenue growth in large-sized and medium/small-sized driver IC of 65% and 87%, respectively, and the successful introduction of driver IC into automotive panels, total revenue exceeded US$1.5 billion, or 74% YoY.
Looking forward to 2022, after AMD completes the acquisition of Xilinx, other players will fill out the rankings. In the broader picture, intensifying demand for high-specification products such as high-performance computing, Netcom, high-speed transmission, servers, automotive, and industrial applications will create good business opportunities for IC design companies and drive overall revenue growth. However, terminal system manufacturers face the correction of component mismatch issues. In addition, growing foundry costs, intensifying geopolitical conflicts, and rising inflation will all be detrimental to global economic growth and may impact an already weakened consumer electronics market. These are the challenges IC design companies face in 2022 and by what means can product sales momentum be maintained within existing production capacity, R&D efficacy strengthened, and chip specifications upgraded, will become the primary focus of development in 2022.
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 1H20 seemed at first poised to devastate the IC design industry. However, as WFH and distance education became the norm, TrendForce finds that the demand for notebook computers and networking products also spiked in response, in turn driving manufacturers to massively ramp up their procurement activities for components. Fabless IC design companies that supply such components therefore benefitted greatly from manufacturers’ procurement demand, and the IC design industry underwent tremendous growth in 2020. In particular, the top three IC design companies (Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Nvidia) all posted YoY increases in their revenues, with Nvidia registering the most impressive growth, at a staggering 52.2% increase YoY, the highest among the top 10 companies.
According to TrendForce’s latest investigations, Qualcomm was able to overtake Broadcom for the leading position in the top 10 list primarily due to two reasons: First, the sudden demand surge for network devices; and second, Apple’s decision to once again adopt Qualcomm’s baseband processors. Incidentally, US sanctions against Huawei also prompted other smartphone brands to ramp up their production volumes in an attempt to seize additional market shares. Taken together, these factors collectively drove up Qualcomm’s revenue last year. Likewise, although the US-China trade war hampered Broadcom’s performances in 1H20, its smartphone RF front-end became a crucial part of Apple’s supply chain in 2H20. Even so, Broadcom fell to second place in the rankings, since its revenue growth was relatively minor. The Mellanox acquisition substantially bolstered the depth and breadth of Nvidia’s data center solutions, which generated nearly US$6.4 billion in revenue, a 121.2% increase YoY. Owing to its data center solutions and gaming graphics cards, which performed well in the market, Nvidia posted the highest YoY revenue growth among the top 10 companies, at 52.2% as previously mentioned.
The three Taiwanese companies delivered remarkable performances as well. In particular, MediaTek’s revenue underwent a 37.3% YoY increase in 2020, an overwhelming improvement over the 1% YoY increase in 2019. MediaTek’s growth last year took place due to several reasons, including the skyrocketing demand for notebooks and networking products, the success of MediaTek’s 5G smartphone processors, and improved specs as well as cost optimizations for MediaTek’s networking products. Novatek’s revenue grew by 30.1% YoY, as the US-China trade war and the stay-at-home economy brought about by the pandemic resulted in strong sales of its driver ICs and TV SoCs. Finally, Realtek benefitted from the high demand for its various offerings, most notably networking products and notebooks, although sales of its audio products and Bluetooth chips were also respectable. Realtek’s revenue increased by 34.1% YoY.
Capitalizing on the capacity limitations of Intel’s 10nm process, AMD made significant inroads in the notebook, desktop, and server CPU markets, resulting in a $9.7 billion revenue, a remarkable 45% increase YoY. Although Xilinx’s revenue declined by 5.6% YoY in the wake of the US-China trade war, recent QoQ changes in Xilinx’s revenue show that the company is well on its way to recovery going forward.
Although vaccines are being administered across the globe at the moment, the pandemic has yet to show any signs of slowdown in 1Q21. While device manufacturers remain active in procuring components, the shortage of foundry capacities is expected to persist throughout the year. IC design companies are likely to raise IC quotes given the need to ensure sufficient foundry capacities allocated to IC products, in turn propelling IC design revenue to new heights in 2021.
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