Party on Semiconductor Street as worldwide 2021 revenues top record half a trillion dollars

Gartner reports 25.1% growth off the back of supply chain pain

Semiconductor giants enjoyed soaring revenues in 2021 as global sales topped the half-trillion-dollar mark for the first time against a backdrop of squeezed supply chains.

Preliminary numbers by tech analyst Gartner put revenues at $583.5bn for 2021, a jump of 25.1 per cent on the previous year with demand and raw material costs pushing up average selling prices (ASPs).

There was also change at the top as Intel's crown was snatched back by Samsung. The US chipmaker's revenues were almost static, growing by a mere half a per cent (the lowest among the top 25 vendors) to $73.1bn. Sammy, on the other hand, leapt by 31.6 per cent to $75.95bn.

Perhaps also worrying for Chipzilla was the arrival of AMD in the top 10 (at 10th in 2021 up from 14th place in 2020). AMD scored an impressive 64.4 per cent in revenue growth to $15.89bn, the highest in Gartner's table.

5G was a factor in the figures, although Gartner also highlighted the decline of Chinese tech giant Huawei as revenues from its chip subsidiary HiSilicon dropped from $8.2bn in 2020 to approximately $1bn in 2021. As US sanctions bit, Huawei offloaded its smartphone arm, Honor – which promptly switched to MediaTek away from HiSilicon's Kirin chipset – and stopped producing its Kirin chipset. Other vendors have filled in the gap. Qualcomm and Mediatek, both reported chip revenue growth of more than 50 per cent year-on-year to $26.8bn and $17.45bn respectively.

Intel recently completed the sale of its NAND and SSD business to South Korea's SK Hynix for $7bn, and it was memory that Gartner noted as being the best performing device category between 2020 and 2021. It's all about timing.

Increased demand from hyperscale cloud providers as well as surging demand for PCs and laptops were factors that drove a $42.1bn increase in memory revenue and accounted for 33.8 per cent of overall semiconductor revenue growth.

It was, however, DRAM that had the best performance in the memory category as shortages sent prices soaring and revenue to $92.1bn. And the good times look set to continue (at least in terms of prices) as demand remains high amid shortages and supply chain woes.

Something to cheer you while you go hunting for that IC that won't either cost you a kidney or require a wait past retirement age. ®

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