Japan’s equipment makers continue momentum into new fiscal year

June 2, 2004 – Japanese chipmaking equipment firms closed their fiscal 2004 books with a bang in March, but business didn’t slow down in the first month of the new business year, according to the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan (SEAJ).

Global orders for Japanese-made semiconductor equipment in April totaled 154.00 billion yen ($1.41 billion), roughly flat with March’s totals but up more than 110% from April 2003 — the tenth straight month of year-on-year gains, with 2x growth in six of the last seven months. The three-month average, used to minimize month-to-month volatility, showed a 3.9% increase in orders from the previous month. Domestic equipment orders in April were 71.60 billion yen ($654.7 million), down from 80.75 billion yen ($730.8 million) in March, but still up more than 40% from a year ago.

Falling from a fiscal year-end flurry of activity, worldwide sales of Japanese chipmaking equipment dropped to 116.02 billion yen ($1.06 billion) from 223.52 billion yen ($2.02 billion) in March, but were nearly triple the sales from April 2003. (According to the three-month average, global sales actually were up nearly 3% sequentially.) Domestic sales also slid 40% from their March peak to 62.17 billion yen ($568.5 million), but were more than 133% higher than a year ago.

The book-to-bill ratios for both worldwide (0.91) and domestic demand (0.95) remained below parity levels for the second consecutive month; however, the worldwide B:B was 17% higher than a year ago (0.78) while the domestic number was 17% lower (1.15). A book-to-bill of 0.91 means that $91 in new orders was received for every $100 of product billed for the month.

“Due to the abnormally large sales figures at the March fiscal year-end, April’s B:B ratio inevitably dropped,” said SEAJ spokesperson Kazuhisa Okutsu, quoted by Dow Jones. “But as an overall trend, the orders are still growing, and we expect this to continue in the coming months.”


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