Happy days are here again for the semiconductor business, with the analysts at Gartner now projecting that worldwide semiconductor sales will rise by 19.9 per cent, to $276bn, in 2010.
Recovering PC sales and rising DRAM memory prices are combining to help push up DRAM revenues by 55 per cent compared to last year, thus buoying the entire global semi market. Gartner's current projections call for sustained but more subdued growth through 2014, with global sales hitting $304bn in 2012.
"We have seen clear evidence that the semiconductor industry is poised for strong growth in 2010," explained Bryan Lewis, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement accompanying the projections. "While the semiconductor market declined 9.6 per cent in 2009, sequential quarterly revenue growth was amazingly strong through the last three quarters of 2009.
"After the gloom early in the year, PC unit production growth actually turned out to be positive in 2009 and is expected to grow close to 20 per cent in 2010, fuelling strength in semiconductors. Given the sales momentum and earlier cutbacks in capital spending, semiconductor foundry and packaging utilization rates are approaching constraints and most regions and most applications are seeing increased orders. The key question now is will the recovery continue at its current rate or will we see a correction?"
Gartner says it is keeping an eye on the situation and historical trends, and that it expects the third quarter - typically the strongest of the year because PC and server makers stock up ahead of back-to-school, holiday, and end of year IT budget buying - to grow about seven per cent sequentially compared to the second quarter. This is two per cent lower than historical trends and representing the correction needed to get chip sales and system sales back into balance.
In further good news, the Semiconductor Industry Association, a trade group focusing on chip makers, said that worldwide semiconductor sales (based on a three-month rolling average) rose by three-tenths of a per cent sequentially in January, to $22.5bn. Normally, chip sales fall off from December to January. Semi sales in January 2010 were 47.2 per cent larger than in January 2009, arguably the deepest trough in the economic meltdown.
"We are currently seeing strength across a range of demand drivers for semiconductors, including personal computers, cell phones, automobiles, and industrial applications," said George Scalise, the SIA's president. "If the current trends continue, there is upside potential for 2010 growth above our November forecast of $242.1bn, but a growing global economy driven by consumer purchasing will be key to sustaining these trends."
SIA's semiconductor sales model shows $3.76bn in chip revenues in the Americas region in January, up 48.2 per cent, while sales in Europe came to $2.93bn, up 29.5 per cent. Chip sales were up 69.2 per cent to $12.28bn in the Asia/Pacific region where a lot of the world's PCs, cell phones, and increasingly servers are made, though Japan had a relatively tiny 9.1 per cent growth in January, with $3.52bn in chip sales. ®