US $B “capex club” now a trio

August 11, 2009 – From 2004-2007, 14 or more firms jostled for position among the top spenders, each forking over $1B annually; that list was pared to eight a year ago. Now, that list is a lonely place to be, with only Intel ($4.7B), Samsung ($4.5B), and TSMC ($2.3B) slated to spend $1B or more in capex this year, according to data from IC Insights.

Those three firms, though, are the biggest of the crop, accounting for close to half (43%, or $11.5B) of all anticipated capex spending this year. Note that only TSMC is expecting to spend more in 2009 than it did in 2008 (23%, a relatively new announcement), while both Intel (-10%) and Samsung (-33%) are cutting back like everyone else (hello memory makers?).

With only these three firms topping $1B, the capex-to-sales ratio is expected to dip to a new record low of 12%, well below 2008’s level of 16% and well below the 20%+ levels seen in the past decade or so. The good news: such low capex/sales ratio should spur ASPs in 2010-2012, IC Insights notes.

Equipment providers might also want to take note — those three $B capex spenders, dominant in their respective markets (processors, memory, foundry) are the same ones who are pushing hard for a 450mm pilot line by 2012. Better to be early to that party, than late — or never!

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