YMTC


2021-10-25

Global Ranking of Top 10 SSD Module Makers for 2020 Shows 15% YoY Drop in Annual Shipment, Says TrendForce

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic led to severe delays in manufacturing and logistics. In particular, governments worldwide began implementing border restrictions in 2Q20 to combat the ongoing health crisis, leading to a sudden decline in order volumes for channel-market SSDs, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Annual shipment of SSDs to the channel (retail) market reached 111.5 million units in 2020, a 15% YoY decrease. In terms of market share by shipment, Kingston, ADATA, and Kimtigo once again occupied the top three spots, respectively.

Looking at the channel market for SSDs as a whole, NAND Flash suppliers (among which Samsung possessed the largest market share) accounted for around 35% of the total shipments in 2020, while SSD module makers accounted for the other 65%. The top 10 module makers accounted for 71% of channel-market SSD shipments from all SSD module makers. Taken together, these figures show that the market remained relatively oligopolistic in 2020. However, it should be noted that TrendForce’s ranking of SSD module makers for 2020 takes account of only products bound for the channel market and under brands owned by the module makers themselves; NAND Flash suppliers were therefore excluded from the top 10 ranking.

As the pandemic eliminated tier-2 and tier-3 suppliers at an increasingly rapid pace, the collective market share of the top 10 module makers continued to rise

Kingston demonstrated the competitive advantage that it derived from having a global strategy while the pandemic took place. The company saw its market share increase by 1% against market headwinds in 2020 and comfortably took the number one spot among the top 10 SSD module makers. At the same time, Kingston sourced its SSD controller ICs from a diverse group of suppliers in order to avoid potential issues with SSD production due to insufficient foundry capacities. By ensuring a stable supply of controller ICs, Kingston will likely raise its market share even further going forward. On the other hand, ADATA had previously shifted the focus of its R&D and manufacturing operations to SSD products. Not only did ADATA release high-end products ahead of most of its competitors, but it also raised its markets share thanks to the increased demand for its gaming products during the pandemic. ADATA took the second spot on the top 10 list.

Kimtigo, ranked third on the list, shifted its focus to mid-range and high-end products due to their relatively high profitability. Furthermore, Kimtigo successfully expanded its market share both overseas and online, in turn taking the number one position in China. In light of China’s policies prioritizing domestic semiconductor production as well as Kimtigo’s ongoing efforts to cultivate a presence in tier-3 and tier-4 cities in China, the company will likely continue to increase its market share going forward. Netac similarly possessed comprehensive sales networks in China and the overseas markets, in addition to having committed to long-term developments in online sales channels. As the pandemic drove up online sales last year, Netac was able to leapfrog to fourth place in the rankings. Likewise, Lexar saw a slight growth in its market share last year due to not only the comprehensive global sales network it had previously developed, but also its gradually maturing manufacturing operations and aftersales customer services.

The COVID-19 pandemic drove up orders for Teclast’s self-branded notebook computers and displays. As a result, Teclast’s shipment of SSDs last year underwent an increase that in turn led to a corresponding increase in its market share. As for Colorful and Galaxy, the two companies primarily focused on the gaming market. Hence, the increase in demand for gaming consoles and high-end notebooks allowed Colorful and Galaxy to enjoy increased visibility in the SSD market. Lenovo’s shipments fell slightly in 2020 because the other competing brands increased their efforts in developing the overseas markets. As a result, its place in the ranking also dropped from 2019. As the ranking indicates, the competition among brands in the Chinese market remained very intense. There is the possibility that the brands’ positions in the ranking will undergo more reshuffling for 2021.

It should be pointed out that TrendForce has noted the participation of additional brands in the SSD module market in recent years. One such brand is Gigabyte, which has registered remarkable performances. Gigabyte grew its shipment of SSD products by more than 30% YoY in 2020 through leveraging its preexisting reputation in the motherboard and graphics card markets. Although Gigabyte has yet to enter the top 10 list at the moment, it will likely do so within the coming years thanks to its comprehensive global sales network and the growing visibility of its SSD products.

Rise of YMTC strengthens China’s domestic NAND Flash production, and Chinese SSD manufacturers are gradually gaining a brand advantage

As the trend of the localization of semiconductor manufacturing comes to the forefront of the Chinese memory market, YMTC is carrying out a massive capacity expansion plan. In terms of layer technology, YMTC is steadily advancing to 128L and catching up to the major NAND Flash suppliers. Among Chinese SSD brands, Biwin secured financial support from the China IC Industry Investment Fund (the Big Fund) this September; it is now expanding the production capacity of its plant in Huizhou. Besides this, Biwin has also acquired sufficient product development capability to meet clients’ demand for customized products and services. The company is therefore expected to experience a wave of growth in the future.

Turning to Taiwan-based SSD brands, Liteon’s shipments of branded SSDs have slowed down significantly after the company was fully incorporated into Kioxia in July 2020. Due to certain considerations pertaining to the allocation of internal resources, Kioxia will assign the Liteon SSD team to support the development of SSDs for PC OEMs. In the future, Kioxia’s focus will not be on brand development. As for other Taiwan-based SSD brands, they will unlikely return to the top 10 ranking because they have not been able to catch up to the brands based in Mainland China with respect to the economies of scale. TrendForce believes that Taiwan-based brands will continue to be on the decline.

PCIe G4 SSDs become new main offerings, and module makers have adopted QLC solutions

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to a significant increase in the average memory density of SSDs this year. With 512GB becoming the mainstream capacity size, the cost advantage of QLC will become increasingly recognizable. Hence, module makers will be introducing QLC products into their SSD offerings. In the aspect of interface technologies, the proportion of SATA in the retail SSD market has been declining over the years, and module makers are switching to PCIe for their new products. TrendForce’s research finds that PCIe products accounted for almost 30% of retail SSDs shipped in 2020. With shipments of PCIe G4 SSDs expected to grow rapidly in the future, module makers will assign PCIe as the mainstream interface for new products.

Also, an increasing number of Chinese IC design houses are now involved in the development of SSD controller ICs. This, in turn, has led to more PCIe G4 SSD controllers entering mass production. As China pursues the localization of semiconductor manufacturing, module makers will be tested to develop suitable solutions that can maintain growth in the Chinese market.

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

2021-03-17

NAND Flash Contract Prices Projected to Increase by 3-8% QoQ in 2Q21 Due to Easing of Oversupply, Says TrendForce

With Samsung, YMTC, SK Hynix, and Intel leading the charge, NAND Flash suppliers will maintain an aggressive effort to expand their production capacities throughout 2Q21, during which NAND Flash bit output will likely increase by nearly 10% QoQ, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. On the other hand, orders from PC OEMs and Chinese smartphone brands since 1Q21, as well as recovering procurement activities from clients in the data center segment during 2Q21, will generate upward momentum propelling NAND Flash bit demand. Furthermore, buyers are actively stocking up on finished products, such as SSDs and eMMC, due to persistently limited NAND Flash controller supply. TrendForce therefore expects NAND Flash contract prices to increase by an average of 3-8% QoQ in 2Q21 after experiencing a 5-10% decline QoQ in 1Q21. In particular, as Samsung’s Line S2 fab in Austin has yet to resume full operation after the Texas winter storm, the supply of NAND Flash controllers going forward may be at risk, and Samsung’s ability to manufacture client SSDs will be further constrained as a result. In light of these factors, TrendForce is not ruling out the possibility that NAND Flash contract prices may increase by even more than current forecasts.

Contract prices of both client SSDs and enterprise SSDs are projected to rise due to delayed resumption at Samsung’s Line S2 fab

With regards to client SSDs, the persistent stay-at-home economy generated by the COVID-19 pandemic will likely result in strong demand for notebook computers in 2H21, while PC OEMs have raised their client SSD inventories as they manufacture more notebooks to meet demand. Given the high volumes of client SSD orders from PC OEMs, inventory level of NAND Flash suppliers is therefore likely to remain healthy. However, the shortage of NAND Flash controllers has yet to be resolved. Suspended operations at the Line S2 fab disrupted Samsung’s production of NAND Flash controllers, meaning some client SSD orders will not be fulfilled in 2Q21. Hence, the tight supply of finished products (i.e., client SSDs) will be further exacerbated. As such, client SSD contract prices are projected to increase by 3-8% in 2Q21.

With regards to enterprise SSDs, demand is expected to rebound from rock bottom in 2Q21, primarily because clients in the data center segment will ramp up their procurement activities after undergoing a period of inventory adjustment. In addition, demand for IT equipment from the governmental, healthcare, and financial services sectors will also gradually emerge. Other factors contributing to enterprise SSD demand include bids from Chinese telecom operators and increased IT equipment purchases from small and medium businesses globally. On the other hand, NAND Flash suppliers are no longer under pressure to destock via low prices, since their inventory levels have improved thanks to high demand from notebook manufacturers and smartphone brands. As the overall demand for NAND Flash rises, enterprise SSD contract prices are in turn expected to stabilize and experience a 0-5% growth QoQ in 2Q21.

High demand for Chromebooks will provide upward momentum for eMMC quotes, while contract prices of UFS are projected to undergo the lowest growths among NAND Flash products

eMMC contract prices will likely remain, for the most part, higher than expected despite the cyclical downturn in 1H21. In particular, strong demand from Chromebook manufacturers will provide upward momentum for eMMC quotes. Likewise, under the influence of NAND Flash controller shortage, eMMC buyers such as consumer electronics manufacturers will expand their procurement activities in order to build up their inventories. As a result, the overall eMMC demand will gradually ramp up in 2Q21. Conversely, the supply of eMMC controllers is still in shortage due to the fully loaded capacities across the foundry industry. Also, eMMC products under 32GB exclusively feature 2D NAND or 64L 3D NAND. Because production capacities allocated for these types of NAND Flash memories have been either reassigned to other 3D NAND products or scaled down, the oversupply of eMMC has been alleviated, and the long-term price drop of eMMC has subsequently come to a halt. In the short term, the shortage of controller ICs will result in a shortage of finished eMMC products. eMMC contract prices are therefore projected to increase by 3-8% QoQ in 2Q21.

Demand for UFS, which is primarily used for smartphones, is expected to remain high through 2Q21 because OPPO, Vivo, and Xiaomi have been aggressively procuring UFS since 4Q20, and Huawei spun off its Honor smartphone business unit. Buyers have also been anticipating an upcoming shortage of controller ICs and NAND Flash memory, leading them to build up their UFS inventories and therefore further driving up the overall UFS demand. On the supply side, inventory levels of suppliers have dropped significantly due to smartphone brands’ large-scale procurement activities previously. Although Chinese smartphone brands have yet to ramp up their bit demand, their existing level of demand still remains strong. Furthermore, clients from the data center segment are expected to increase their SSD procurement in 2Q21, and suppliers will maintain an aggressive approach regarding quotes in response. Even so, because smartphones account for the highest bit consumption share among all NAND Flash applications, NAND Flash suppliers are unlikely to significantly adjust their UFS quotes. As such, UFS contract prices are expected to increase by 0-5% QoQ in 2Q21, which is relatively lower compared to other NAND Flash products.

NAND Flash wafer contract prices are projected to increase by 5-10% QoQ as NAND Flash suppliers lower their bit shipment to the wafer market due to its lower profit margins

With regards to the NAND Flash wafer market, TrendForce has yet to observe an obvious improvement in the retail sales of end products such as SSDs, memory cards, and USB flash drives. However, as NAND Flash suppliers have been unable to make their scheduled delivery dates to OEMs due to an insufficient supply of controller ICs, module makers may stand to benefit from this and obtain more orders from OEMs, subsequently driving up the demand for NAND Flash wafers within the next one to two quarters, but the actual procurement of NAND Flash wafers will depend on whether the tight supply situation of controller ICs can be alleviated. On the other hand, inventories of NAND Flash suppliers have now fallen to mostly healthy levels thanks to procurement activities from smartphone brands since 4Q20. Suppliers have accordingly lowered their bit shipments to the NAND Flash wafer market (which yields a relatively lower profit margin compared to other product categories), due to the rising demand from notebook manufacturers and the expected recovery of the data center segment in 2Q21. On the whole, given the bullish market of mainstream products, such as smartphones and notebooks, TrendForce expects NAND Flash wafer contract prices to once again increase by 5-10% QoQ in 2Q21.

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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