Chip industry’s very good year as sales hit US$283bn

21 Apr 2011

The year 2010 was one of the best years in semiconductor industry history with sales of chips up 24pc, according to IDC. Sales of hardware like e-readers, tablets and smartphones to cars, data centre servers and wireless infrastructure contributed to the rude health of the sector.

The industry recovery was strong and broad last year across all market verticals, regions and semiconductor device categories.

IDC tracked more than more than 100 semiconductor companies, most of which experienced strong growth in 2010.

Intel, with total semiconductor revenues of US$41.9bn in 2010, once again was the overall market leader.

Samsung was the No 2 vendor overall with revenues of US$27.6bn, which increased its semiconductor revenue market share by 2pc over 2009.

Rounding out the top 5 chip suppliers were Texas Instruments, Toshiba and Hynix. Renesas Electronics, the merged company of Renesas and NEC, was the No 6 vendor overall, just missing the top 5.

Top 10 chip makers show the most revenue growth

Together, the top 10 vendors represented 51pc of the overall market revenues, an increase of 6pc over 2009.

Many companies grew revenues substantially over the industry average. Among them were memory, analog and microcontroller vendors, in addition to many that serve the communication and consumer market segments.

Notable small-medium sized companies experiencing strong growth in 2010 were Trident Microsystems, Spreadtrum Communications, NetLogic, Aptina, Seoul Semiconductor, ICERA, Cavium and Atheros.

Apple, with its semiconductor revenues coming from A4 chips, experienced year-over-year growth of more than 130pc in 2010.

Within the semiconductor device types, more and more data processing and communication chips are being designed for specific applications.

“There is a definite migration to smart system on a chip (SSoCs) as device applications move to embrace high-level operating systems, connectivity and application processing capabilities,” said Mali Venkatesan, research manager, Semiconductors at IDC, who led the study and compiled the SAF results.

Asia/Pacific, with 51pc share and about 30pc year-over-year revenue growth coming primarily from China, once again was the leading region for semiconductor consumption in 2010. Growth in the Americas was very strong (48pc), while Japan was far below the industry average.

Among the vertical markets for semiconductor consumption, the computing segment was still the largest at 39pc of the overall market, followed by communications with 28pc. Revenue grew above the industry average for computing, communications, and industrial segments, while explosive demand for e-readers and media tablets helped temper otherwise lacklustre year-over-year growth of 13.3pc for the consumer segment.

The automotive sector, coming off the steep declines in 2009, saw substantial year-over-year growth of 39pc in 2010, due to increasing vehicle sales both in the US and in BRIC countries and growth in in-vehicle electronics and semiconductor content in mainstream cars and hybrid vehicles.

Driven by industry consolidation and competition, several companies disappeared from the 2010 list (eg, NEC Electronics, Numonix, and Silicon Storage Technologies).

“But overall, the semiconductor market saw one of its best years in 2010, with many leading companies able to grow both top line revenues and cash position. We expect M&A to be the key theme for 2011, as small- and medium-size companies become potential targets, with many more to come later this year.

“Based on the historical semiconductor revenue trends, projected overcapacity in foundries for later this year, and current macroeconomic problems (the earthquake in Japan, continued high unemployment in the US, high US debt, and global inflation fears), we expect 2011 semiconductor revenue growth to be in the 6-8pc range,” added Venkatesan.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years