September slide: Welcome to the semicap equipment downturn?

October 22, 2010 – SEMI’s August numbers indicated the possible beginnings of a peak in equipment demand — and the September numbers sure like a pullback, with orders declining -11% in a quarter-closing month.

Inside SEMI’s September statistics:

  • Bookings: $1.62B in September, the industry’s first two-month sequential decline since early 2009. Orders are now at levels seen before June.
  • Billings: $1.58B, inching up (~1%) from August, a 17 consecutive month of rising. But that’s three straight months of ≤3% sales growth, and five out of six in low- to mid-single digits.
  • Both orders and sales remain well above the same period a year ago, but falling noticeably: now ~113% and 143%, instead of the nearly 200% in August. The further we pull away from the downturn, of course, the closer those Y/Y comparisons will come to normalcy — and eventually we’ll be comparing them on the upside, too.
  • The Book-to-bill, which had spent most of the year in the "teens" and "twenties" range (1.13-1.23), suddenly drops to 1.03, meaning $103 worth of orders was received for every $100 of product billed during the month. It’s still above the 1.0 parity mark (barely) for a 15th consecutive month — but the last time it was this low was last July, when it leapfrogged into parity (0.80 to 1.06). Generally speaking, sales trail orders by six months or more (litho tools closer to a year, some say), so look for this downward tumble in bookings to eventually be reflected in the sales column.
  • With September numbers in, we can calculate preliminary 3Q10 totals: $5.27B in bookings and $4.63B in billings, growth of 12% and 13% respectively — but well below the 25%-33% growth in 2Q10.


The trend carried over to Japan as well, according to the SEAJ’s monthly statistics. Semiconductor equipment sales in September climbed about 21% to ¥112.07B (US $1.37B), but bookings were basically flat for a third straight month, now at ¥127.96B ($1.57B), pushing the B:B down to 1.14.




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