Gap widens between global, domestic sales of Japanese equipment

Global orders in September of Japanese semiconductor equipment continued to display solid gains, soaring above 100 billion yen for the second consecutive month at levels not seen since January 2001, according to the latest figures from the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan (SEAJ).

(For some perspective on how long ago that was, consider: September 11th was still nine months away; Brooks and PRI were more than a year from tying the knot; and the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index, freshly eviscerated like the other Wall Street indices during the dot-com meltdown, had tumbled from a high of 1300 to a paltry 650.88 — today it’s at 491, after months of recovery.)

Worldwide equipment orders in September 2003 cracked the triple-digit mark at 114.14 billion yen ($1.05 billion), a 28.9% year-on-year increase, and up from 102.07 billion yen ($921.6 million) in August and 98.64 billion yen ($822.6 million) in July. After an 18% slide in August, domestic orders rebounded to 67.80 billion yen ($623.7 million), up 35.3% from the same period a year ago and the highest level in the past 12 months.

Global sales of Japanese-made equipment also showed impressive gains, rocketing to 130.45 billion yen ($1.2 billion) in September, compared with 77.34 billion yen ($698.3 million) in August and 77.22 billion yen ($665.0 million) in July, while basically flat from a year ago. After a 15% slide in August, domestic sales rebounded to 72.80 billion yen ($669.7 million), up from 52.18 billion yen ($479.9 million) in August and 61.37 billion yen ($511.8 million) in July, and a 24% increase compared with September 2002.

For the first time in over a year, global orders in every category of equipment recorded a monthly increase. Global orders for maskmaking equipment, which were practically nonexistent in August, rebounded to 1.38 billion yen ($12.7 million). Orders for wafer manufacturing equipment (1.52 billion yen, $14.0 million) and related equipment (6.17 billion ! yen, $56 .7 million) each more than doubled; assembly equipment orders (7.49 billion yen, $68.9 million) were up nearly 50%, while other categories were flat to slightly up. For global sales, equipment categories displayed across-the-board gains for the first time since March, with orders for mask/reticle (4.07 billion yen, $37.5 million), assembly (9.02 billion yen, $82.9 million), and test equipment (26.49 billion yen, $243.7 million) all approaching triple-digit percentage increases.

While the Japanese equipment numbers are impressive, the book-to-bill ratios seem to have stalled. September’s worldwide book-to-bill was 1.10, down from 1.24 in August and 1.40 in July, but still the fifth consecutive month above parity. A book-to-bill of 1.10 means that $110 in new orders was received for every $100 of product billed for the month. The domestic B:B in September was 0.92, its first time below parity since March 2003, down from 1.03 in August, 1.33 in July, and 1.15 in September 2002. Both B:Bs have now declined for four consecutive quarters.


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