Japanese equipment makers’ sales tip the scales

May 19, 2004 — Orders and sales of Japanese-made semiconductor equipment topped three-year highs in March 2004, pushing the book-to-bill ratio below the parity level for the first time since last summer, according to the latest figures from the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan (SEAJ).

Worldwide orders for Japanese-made semiconductor equipment rose 40% from February to 154.55 billion yen ($1.40 billion), more than double the amount of bookings from a year ago and the highest since December 2001, as well as the ninth straight month of year-on-year gains. Bookings rebounded from a sluggish February, with wafer-processing equipment up 48% to 93.99 billion yen ($850.7 million) and test/inspection up 35% to 34.99 billion yen ($316.7 million), while mask/reticle equipment nearly quadrupled. The three-month average, used to downplay the month-to-month volatility frequently seen in the industry, showed a smaller sequential gain of 4.4%, but still doubled year-on-year.

Domestic equipment orders in March were 80.75 billion yen ($730.8 million), up from 51.29 billion yen ($486.3 million) in February and the highest since January 2001.

Worldwide sales of Japanese semiconductor equipment rocketed to a three-year high of 223.52 billion yen ($2.02 billion), an 86% jump from February and 51% higher than March 2003. (The three-month average showed monthly and yearly gains of 33% and 58%, respectively.) Domestic sales also achieved a three-year high at 102.72 billion yen ($929.7 million), compared with 48.94 billion yen ($464.1 million) in February, and a 58% increase from a year ago.

Due to the wave of demand pushing through the sales cycle, the worldwide book-to-bill ratio for March (a three-month average) slid below the parity level for the first time in 10 months to 0.90, down from 1.15 in February and its lowest level in nearly a year. A book-to-bill of 0.90 means that $90 in new orders was received for every $100 of product billed for the month. Domestically the B:B also was below parity at 0.87, compared with 1.06 in February and 0.98 a year ago.


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