China/Taiwan Update

April revenues were just released by Taiwan-listed companies, many of which manufacture in China.

  • Electronic equipment OEM sales in April 2016 were down 9.1% compared to April 2015 and down sequentially 12.3% compared to March 2016. This downturn appears to be normal seasonality overlaid on weak demand (Chart 1).
  • ODM companies’ revenues mirrored electronic equipment. April 2016 sales were down 9.9% vs. April 2015 and down 13.5% sequentially from March 2016 (Chart 2).
  • Semiconductor shipments to Asia are now back in balance with electronic equipment demand on a 3/12 growth basis (Chart 3).
  • Wafer foundry (Chart 4) and Package & Test (Chart 5) sales weakened slightly from March.
  • Memory (Chart 6) and passive component (Chart 7) revenues were little changed.
  • Display sales rebounded (Chart 8).
  • Solar/photovoltaic company revenues declined sequentially from March but were 2.4% above April 2015 (Chart 9).
  • Rigid and flex PCB sales remained well below their trend line (Chart 10) and CCL (laminate) mirrored rigid PCB shipments (Chart 11).
  • The Asia/Pacific leading indicator points to resumed Y/Y PCB growth in 3Q’16 (Chart 12).

Source: Company revenues with analysis by Custer Consulting Group

Europe Update

Eurostat just released its March production data by sector of the European electronic supply chain.

  • Electronic equipment production rose 2.5% in March 2016 vs. March 2015 but declined 0.4% sequentially from February 2016 (Chart 13). Although electronic equipment growth has slipped slightly, it remains strong compared to most regions of the world (Chart 14).
  • March vehicle production dropped sharply (Chart 15) but aircraft output was little changed from February (Chart 16).
  • Industrial & instrument (Chart 17) and medical electronics (Chart 18) production weakened.
  • Semiconductor shipments to Europe remain well below electronic equipment production on a 3/12 growth basis suggesting that a downward chip inventory/order correction is underway (Chart 19).
  • Electronic assembly (loaded board production) surged (Chart 20) as did printed circuit board (wiring device) output (Chart 21). However the leading indicator points to weaker PCB output in mid-2016 (Chart 22).

Chart 23 gives the annualized (12/12) and 3-month (3/12) growth of the European electronic supply chain in March and Chart 24 compares 1Q’16 vs. 1Q’15 growth.

Source: Eurostat and SIA with analysis by Custer Consulting Group

Worldwide Semiconductor Capital Spending to Decline 2% in 2016 (Chart 25)

Worldwide semiconductor capital spending is projected to decline 2% in 2016, to $62.8 billion, according to Gartner, Inc. This is up from the estimated 4.7% decline in Gartner's previous quarterly forecast.

"While the first quarter 2016 forecast has improved from a projected decline of 4.7% in the previous quarter's forecast, the 2% decline in the market for 2016 is still bleak," said David Christiansen, senior research analyst at Gartner. "Excess inventory and weak demand for PCs, tablets, and mobile products continue to plague the semiconductor industry, resulting in a slow growth rate that began in late 2015 and is continuing into 2016."

"The slowdown in the devices market has driven semiconductor producers to be conservative with their capital spending plans," said Mr. Christensen. "This year, leading semiconductor manufacturers are responding to anticipated weak demand from semiconductors and preparing for new growth in leading-edge technologies in 2017."

In addition, the aggressive pursuit of semiconductor manufacturing capability by the Chinese government is an issue that cannot be ignored by the semiconductor manufacturing industry. In the last year, there has been consolidation and merger and acquisition (M&A) activity with specific offers from various Chinese-based entities, indicating the aggressiveness of the Chinese. This will dramatically affect the competitive landscape of global semiconductor manufacturing in the next few years, as China is now a major market for semiconductor usage and manufacturing.

Looking forward, the market is expected to return to growth in 2017. Increased demand for 10 nanometer (nm) and 3D NAND process development in memory and logic/foundry will drive overall spending to grow 4.4% in 2017.


Worldwide Semiconductor Photomask Market Forecast to grow from $3.3 billion in 2015 to $3.4 billion in 2017 (Chart 26)

SEMI reports that the worldwide semiconductor photomask market was $3.3 billion in 2015 and is forecasted to reach $3.4 billion in 2017. After increasing 3% in 2014, the photomask market increased 1% in 2015. The mask market is expected to grow 2 and 3% in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Key drivers in this market continue to be advanced technology feature sizes (less than 45nm) and increased manufacturing in Asia-Pacific. Taiwan remains the largest photomask regional market for the fifth year in a row and is expected to be the largest market for the duration of the forecast.

Revenues of $3.3 billion place photomasks at 13% of the total wafer fabrication materials market, behind silicon and semiconductor gases. By comparison, SEMI reports that photomasks represented 18% of the total wafer fabrication materials market in 2003. Another trend highlighted in the report is the increasing importance of captive mask shops. Captive mask shops, aided by intense capital expenditures in 2011 and 2012 and the weakening Yen in recent years, which dampened Japan headquartered supplier's revenues when reported in US dollars, gained market share at merchant suppliers' expense. Captive mask suppliers accounted for 56% of the total photomask market last year, up from 53% in 2014. Captive mask shops represented 31% of the photomask market in 2003.

A recent published SEMI report, 2015 Photomask Characterization Summary, provides details on the 2015 Photomask Market for seven regions of world including North America, Japan, Europe, Taiwan, Korea, China, and Rest of World. The report also includes data for each of these regions from 2003 to 2017 and summarizes lithography developments over the past year.


Panel Demand Picking Up, say IC Firms

Short lead-time orders for small-size panels are flowing in while orders for large-size panels have been picking up. Taiwan-based analog IC and LCD driver IC firms are expected to post revenue growth in the second quarter of 2016, according to industry sources.

The pull-in of orders coming from the panel industry is expected to persist through the third quarter, the sources said.

In the large-size panel sector, major LCD driver IC supplier Novatek Microelectronics recently remarked that its large-size panel driver IC segment is set to outperform its other product segments in terms of shipment growth in the second quarter.

Novatek expects its revenues to grow 4-9% sequentially in the second quarter after posting a 13.6% fall in first-quarter revenues.

Also buoyed by a pick-up in large-size panel demand, analog IC suppliers Advanced Analog Technology and Global Mixed-mode Technology (GMT) have seen shipments of their power management ICs climb substantially, the sources noted. Both firms are expected to enjoy double-digit revenue growth sequentially in the second quarter.

Companies specializing in small- to medium-size panel driver ICs, including Himax Technologies, FocalTech Systems, Sitronix, Fitipower Integrated Technology and UltraChip, will likely enjoy revenue growth of 10-20% sequentially in the second quarter, thanks to brisk demand for mid-range and entry-level smartphones, the sources estimated.


Lenovo Top Notebook Brand in 1Q’16 surpassing HP in Shipments (Chart 27)

Worldwide notebook shipments in the first quarter of 2016 arrived at 35.62 million units, according to Trendforce. The first quarter was the traditional off season for the notebook market and retailers still needed time to clear out their existing inventories. Hence, total shipments fell 19% from the prior quarter and also declined 7.3% year on year.

TrendForce notebook analyst Anita Wang said the first-quarter notebook market was further affected by noises and speculations. For instance, the report of Microsoft planning to raise the operating system license fees had a serious impact on the outlooks of branded Wintel notebook vendors. Additionally, prices of components such as HDDs have been rising, causing the cost of the entire notebook system to go up as well. Hence, notebook brands have become more conservative in their demand forecasts for the year. Based on TrendForce’s latest analysis, this year’s notebook shipments will register an annual decline of around 4~5%.

Apple suffered a 40% quarterly decline in MacBook shipments as most brands went through a difficult off season

Lenovo replaced HP as the leading notebook brand by shipments in the first quarter. Lenovo strove to achieve the best possible performance because this period was also the company’s final fiscal quarter for 2015. The Chinese brand therefore posted just a 10% decline in notebook shipments. However, Lenovo will have difficulty on keeping up shipments and continuing to lead the vendor ranking in the second quarter. Retail channels are carrying over sizable inventories from the first quarter, so the stock-up demand for Lenovo notebooks is expected to be severely limited in the near future.

HP’s priority in the first quarter was to clear out as much existing notebook inventories as possible so that its retailers will be ready to stock up the numerous new products from the brand later on. Due to the inventory depletion efforts in the channels and seasonality, HP’s shipments fell 21.2% quarterly. The vendor dropped to second place in the worldwide ranking.

Dell has benefitted from having a stable base of enterprise clients. The brand therefore only suffered a quarterly shipment decline of just 15% and remained at the third place in the ranking.

ASUS held on to its fourth place ranking despite seeing a quarterly shipment decline of 28.9%. ASUS used the off season of the first quarter to include more profitable products into its notebook portfolio, such as notebooks with upgraded screen resolutions. Increasing margins is going to be the brand’s main goal this year.

Acer’s notebook shipments fell 24.7% compared with the prior quarter. Weak sales in the U.S. and Europe and ongoing inventory reduction efforts in the channels were the main factors. In the first quarter, Apple did not have any new MacBook products ready for the market, nor did it lower MacBook prices to generate sales. Apple’s Wintel-based competitors, on the other hand, benefitted from Windows 10 and the steady supply of Intel’s Skylake CPUs. They were able to have numerous new products ready to promote and ship. As a result, MacBook shipments suffered a massive quarterly decline of 40.4% in the first quarter and Apple retreated to the sixth place in the ranking.

Samsung returned to the consumer notebook market at the end of 2015 and has been stepping up its shipments into various channels since then. In this year’s first quarter, Samsung grew its notebook shipments by 43% over the previous period.


Global Tablet Shipments decreased 12.1% y/y to 44.89 million units in 1Q’16 (Chart 28)

There were an estimated 44.89 million tablets shipped globally during the first quarter of 2016, falling 31.3% on quarter and 12.1% on year, according to Digitimes Research.

The shipments consisted of 10.2 million iPads, 18.4 million from major brands, and 16.3 million units by white-box vendors/makers, respectively decreasing 36.6%, 36.5% and 19.7% on quarter, Digitimes Research indicated.

7-inch models accounted for 28.8% of the shipments, 7.9-inch 15.0%, 8.x 5.7%, 9.x 28.7%, 10.x 11.4%, and 11-inch and above 10.4%. In terms of touch-panel technology, GFF (glass + film + film) accounted for 48.9% of shipments, GF2 (glass + double film) 35.7%, OGS (one glass solution) 8.0% and On-Cell 7.5%.

Apple was the largest vendor taking up 22.7% of shipments, followed by Samsung Electronics with 13.8%, Lenovo 4.8%, Amazon 4.5%, Huawei Technologies 4.3%, Asustek Computer 2.7%, LG Electronics 1.9%, TCL 1.8%, Microsoft 1.6% and Acer 1.4%.

Taiwan-based ODMs/OEMs shipped 14.5 million tablets in the quarter, dropping 37.8% on quarter and 17.6% on year. Foxconn Electronics accounted for 64% of shipments, Compal Electronics 15.9%, Pegatron 5.2% and Wistron 1.5%.


Taiwan Motherboard Players Expanding into New Industries such as industrial PCs, Healthcare, Car Electronics & Embedded Product

Facing weakening worldwide PC demand, Taiwan-based motherboard players have been expanding their businesses into new industries such as industrial PC (IPC), healthcare, car electronics and embedded products to strive for orders, according to sources from the upstream supply chain.


Walt D. Custer

Walt Custer

Walt Custer is an industry analyst focused on the global electronics industry. Prior to forming Custer Consulting Group he was Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Morton Electronic Materials, a global supplier of specialty chemicals and process equipment for the PCB industry.

Custer has been a member of the IPC trade organization since 1975 where he received both the President's and the Raymond E. Pritchard Hall of Fame Awards. He is currently a member of the IPC Executive Market & Technology Steering Committee. Custer is also a Director of the EIPC European PCB trade organization.

He authors regular “Market Outlook” columns for Global SMT & Packaging magazine, the Journal of the HKPCA and the TTI MarketEYE website.

View other posts from Walt D. Custer. View other posts from Walt D. Custer.
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