TrendForce believes that as some support from US-based equipment suppliers is forthcoming, SMIC should be able to continue its efforts in the optimization of the mature process modules and overcoming production bottlenecks to avoid a scission in raw materials and spare parts, and predicts the company to sit at a global market share of 4.2% in 2021.
Global DRAM revenue reached US$17.65 billion, a 1.1% increase YoY, in 4Q20, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. For the most part, this growth took place because Chinese smartphone brands, including Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi, expanded their procurement activities for components in order to seize the market shares made available after Huawei was added to the Entity List by the U.S. Department of Commerce. These procurement activities in turn provided upward momentum for DRAM suppliers’ bit shipment. However, clients in the server segment were still in the middle of inventory adjustments during this period, thereby placing downward pressure on DRAM prices. As a result, revenues of most DRAM suppliers, except for Micron, remained somewhat unchanged in 4Q20 compared to 3Q20. Micron underwent a noticeable QoQ decline in 4Q20 (which Micron counts as its fiscal 1Q21), since Micron had fewer work weeks during this period compared to the previous quarter.
The quarterly total revenue of the NAND Flash industry came to US$14.1 billion in 4Q20, showing a QoQ drop of 2.9%, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. The total bit shipments of the NAND Flash industry in 4Q20 registered a QoQ increase of nearly 9%. This gain for the most part offset the negative impacts brought about by the QoQ decline of nearly 9% in the overall ASP of NAND Flash products, as well as by the unfavorable exchange rates that impaired some suppliers’ performances. At the same time, clients in the server and data center segments continued their inventory reduction efforts that had begun in 3Q20. Since their procurement drive remained fairly weak, contract prices of NAND Flash products continued their decline as well. However, NAND Flash suppliers were receiving substantial orders from OPPO, Vivo, and Xiaomi. On the whole, the strong demand in the smartphone segment mostly compensated for the weak demand in the server and data center segments. In the notebook computer segment, Chromebook devices were the primary sales driver, but the storage components of most Chromebooks are low-density solutions, meaning related NAND Flash demand is somewhat limited.
Since 3Q20, memory suppliers’ production capacities allocated to server DRAM have dropped to about 30% of the total DRAM production capacity, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. While this decrease took place as suppliers sought to increase the supply of other DRAM products in higher demand, it also represented an attempt for them to adjust the ASP of various DRAM products. Furthermore, since the persistent demand for consumer electronics has shown no signs of slowing down in 1Q21, as of now suppliers have also been maintaining the same capacity allocation as last year. However, given that second quarters have traditionally marked the cyclical upturn in server shipment, server DRAM demand is thus expected to ramp up in 2Q21, in turn prompting suppliers to raise their quotes for server DRAM. TrendForce is therefore revising up the QoQ increase in server DRAM contract prices for 2Q21 from the original forecast of 8-13% to the adjusted forecast of 10-15%, with certain transactions potentially involving as much as a 20% price hike.
Demand in the global foundry market remains strong in 1Q21, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. As various end-products continue to generate high demand for chips, clients of foundries in turn stepped up their procurement activities, which subsequently led to a persistent shortage of production capacities across the foundry industry. TrendForce therefore expects foundries to continue posting strong financial performances in 1Q21, with a 20% YoY growth in the combined revenues of the top 10 foundries, while TSMC, Samsung, and UMC rank as the top three in terms of market share. However, the future reallocation of foundry capacities still remains to be seen, since the industry-wide effort to accelerate the production of automotive chips may indirectly impair the production and lead times of chips for consumer electronics and industrial applications.