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ASPs stabilizing, fab spend lower than expected

May 30, 2008

Future Horizons recently released the May WSTS results on the global semiconductor industry, which indicate that the chip market is slowly starting to buzz again. With the ‘hum back among the chips’, it was important for me to quiz Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons, in the UK, to find out why this was happening!

Now then, why is the chip market exactly humming? What has actually happened? Well, nothing specific! It is merely an overall step-by-step general improvement in everything, helped along by the normal seasonal improvement in business in the second half of the year!

So many forecasters and firms have their own forecasts. What happens now if some of these forecasts are cut or revised? Will that affect the market overall market? The answer is simple — a forecast is simply just that — a forecast — not fact!

Penn says, “The market will judge whether the other forecasters’ analyses of the market were right, as it wll indeed judge whether we are right too!”

Earlier, I had written about Future Horizons forecasting 12 percent growth in 2008 for the global semiconductor industry. Keep an eye on that one!

Further, have the ASPs stabilized, as those are indeed a dodgy lot? Penn feels, “We believe yes, although, there will still be the normal month-on-month variations and wobbles.”

Now, where does all of this leave the DRAM and NAND markets? According to the forecast, prices have already stopped falling as fast as they were this time last year.

However, they do fall and will fall; this is what they do! The question is: by how much? In other words, is the current fall above or below the long-term trend line? This will be analyzed in the long run as well.

Finally, what’s happening with the semicon equipment capex? Again, it is continuing to fall! “Right now we are in the middle of an underinvestment period, which means a capacity shortfall in 12 month’s time,” notes Penn.

No ‘fab’ times for fab spends
Is the fab spend going to see any change then? Well, unfortunately, no luck there! At least, not yet. Penn adds that fab spend is lower than expected at the beginning of the year.

He says: “The call then was for a 10 percent reduction, and this is now getting to be closer to 20 percent. In fact, Mike Splinter of Applied Materials is quoted as saying that he thinks that fab spend will end up 30 percent down.”

It is good to see that the global semiconductor industry is starting to hum a little bit more than what it was doing last month. Sincerely hope that the rest of the year pans out well!

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