Gartner: Silicon market leaders riding 300mm expansions

June 16, 1008 – Gartner recently came out with its latest figures for the silicon wafer market, which it calculates grew 22.5% in 2007 to $12.5B, the 2nd straight year of >20% growth. Drivers include continued rising demand for 300mm wafers and generally higher wafer prices due to a shortage of polysilicon. Shipments rose 8.1% to 8.9B square inches.

By market rankings, Shin-Etsu Handotai took the top spot in 2007 with nearly 24% sales growth to >$4B, adding a fraction to its marketshare lead (32.5%). The company’s flagship product is a 300mm one, and it has a high percentage of premium-priced sales, according to Gartner analyst Takashi Ogawa, in a research note.

Following in second place is Sumco (24.7% growth), which also gained a few basis points in share (to 21.7% of the market). Like SEH, Sumco has been expanding production and sales of 300mm wafers, with heavy investments at its plant in Imari, Saga Prefecture.

Third place went to Germany’s Siltronic (29.2% growth, $1.8B in sales, 14.7% share), which is also expanding its 300mm capabilities, and is increasing business in South Korea and Taiwan, Ogawa writes.

Fourth-place MEMC is taking a bit of a different route than the rest — its semiconductor-wafer business only rose 3.5% in 2007, mainly because it’s shifted it’s focus (and resource allocations) to address the photovoltaics sector.

In fifth place, Sumco Techxiv saw sales growth below the market average (11.9%) and lost some marketshare as a result, as “dynamic growth” in Asian markets outside Taiwan and Korea was tempered by the firm’s “relative weakness” in 300mm capabilities vs. the other top vendors.

Looking at 2008 and beyond, Ogawa sees 300mm wafer demand slowing (and prices weakening) as the market matures, with demand surpassing production capacity as the driving force — as a result, wafer vendors will have to tailor pricing for specific device segments, he says. Also, more vendors will seek to diversify and reallocate resources according to market trends, i.e., from semiconductors to photovoltaics, differences in strategy that “will have a significant bearing” on the wafer markets.


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