[News] Silicon Wafer Long-Term Contracts Unstable, Major Foundry Seeks Price Cut from Japanese Suppliers

2023-08-14 Semiconductors editor

According to the news from Money UDN, amid a tough semiconductor market, once-stable long-term contracts for silicon wafer makers have turned uncertain. A major Taiwanese foundry seeks price cuts in upcoming contracts from a Japanese supplier. Intense negotiations are ongoing, potentially affecting industry dynamics and pricing strategies due to the Japanese suppliers’ pivotal role in the supply chain.

Market insiders suggest silicon wafer makers may resist price reductions due to their vital role in foundries. Reports hint at foundries’ challenges and the ripple effects on critical materials suppliers.

Globally, Japan’s Shin-Etsu and SUMCO are top silicon wafer suppliers, trailed by Taiwan’s GlobalWafers, Germany’s Siltronic, and South Korea’s SK Siltron. And Taiwan SUMCO joint venture with Formosa Plastics Group as “Formosa Sumco Technology”, and other companies like Wafer Works. With over 30% market share, Shin-Etsu leads, closely followed by SUMCO, combining for around 55% to 60% global share.

Taiwan’s foundries include TSMC, UMC, VIS, and PSMC, among others. TSMC, with a global market share exceeding 50%, holds a leading position in the industry.

Silicon wafers are essential raw materials for semiconductor foundries, integrated device manufacturers (IDMs), and memory manufacturers. Presently, the standard duration for silicon wafer long-term contracts ranges from three to 8 years, specifying annual supply and demand quantities. In the previous semiconductor boom, these long-term contracts often featured escalating prices year by year.

Semiconductor market shifts led to reduced foundry capacity use, heightening tensions with silicon wafer makers’ clients. Delays emerged in the last quarter, leading to agreements between manufacturers and clients. This trend has persisted into the first half of this year. Silicon wafer industry insiders acknowledge slow end-market demand recovery and relatively high client inventories.

Amidst this situation of overflowing inventories, reports indicate that a major Taiwanese silicon wafer foundry is requesting Japanese silicon wafer suppliers to not only agree to further delays in this year’s contracted shipments but also to lower prices for next year. However, no formal agreement has been reached by the silicon wafer manufacturers at this stage.

A juridical person suggests that the negotiations are currently at a deadlock, and the situation might become clearer in the fourth quarter. If the silicon wafer manufacturers eventually concede, they are unlikely to publicly admit it, in order to prevent other clients from seeking similar adjustments and causing wider disruptions.

Market insiders also reveal that the Japanese silicon wafer manufacturers facing price reduction demands are currently operating relatively well and are adopting a firm stance. From the perspective of the foundries, they are hoping for support from their supply chain partners to alleviate the pressure. Normal silicon wafer inventories typically span two to three months, yet certain silicon wafer foundries are already grappling with high inventory levels, particularly for 8-inch wafers, which might persist throughout this year.