Samsung tightens DRAM grip; Hynix climbs to No. 3

Thirteen years ago, five of the top 10 DRAM producers were in Japan. What a difference a decade – and a punishing downturn – make.

The overall DRAM market grew 61% in 2004 to $26.8 billion, in new rankings from IC Insights Inc. Two South Korean companies, Samsung and Hynix, now command almost half (46%) of the marketplace, while only one company each from the US, Japan, and Europe are counted among the top 10 worldwide DRAM producers. Top growth performances in 2004 go to Powerchip and Elpida (the former DRAM businesses of NEC, Hitachi, and Mitsubishi), as each more than doubled sales in the period.

Samsung, which slightly outpaced the overall industry growth at 66%, focused largely on flash memory in 2003, but shifted resources toward DRAM in 2004. As a result, its market share swelled to nearly twice the No. 2 competitor Micron. “The company is well poised for the advent of DDR2-generation DRAM devices and remains a leading provider of other high-density DRAMs as well,” noted the Scottsdale, AZ-based analyst firm.

Also remarkable is the ascension of Hynix, locked in a three-way battle with Micron and Infineon for the market’s No. 2 spot. The company became leaner in 2004, selling off its nonmemory operations into a separate company (MagnaChip) to focus on DRAMs and NAND flash. Hynix’s strong DRAM presence throughout the Asia-Pacific region, particularly China, also helped offset duties levied by US and European trade authorities in 2003, stated IC Insights.


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