China’s Wafer Fabs Hits 44 with Future Expansion 32, Mainly Targeting on The Mature Process

2023-11-14 Semiconductors editor

On August 7th, HuaHong Group officially went public on the Sci-Tech Innovation Board Market, Shanghai Stock Exchange (STAR Market, SSE). Combined with the return of SMIC to A-shares (China’s domestic shares) in the past two years and Nexchip’s listing in May, it brings together the three major players in China’s foundry sector on the STAR Market. Additionally, SMEC, closely linked to SMIC, also went public on the STAR Market without turning a profit. Overall, China’s foundry industry is steadily gaining strength.

As per TrendForce’s latest research, challenges in the economic outlook and ongoing inventory issues this year have led to a slowdown in demand. This is particularly noticeable in the automotive and industrial control, where inventory has been piling up after short-term fulfillment. Fabless and other IDM inventory digestion have faced severe restrictions. IDM foundries, launching new capacities, are consolidating outsourced orders and once again reducing orders to foundries. In 2024, given the expected unfavorable economic environment, the overall recovery of capacity utilization poses challenges.

While Chinese foundries have not been immune to these challenges, the losses have been mitigated thanks to the boost in China’s import substitution policies on semiconductors. According to TrendForce, the global ratio of mature (>28nm) to advanced (<16nm) processes is projected to hover around 7:3 from 2023 to 2027. Propelled by policies and incentives promoting local production and domestic IC development, China’s mature process capacity is anticipated to grow from 29% this year to 33% by 2027. Leading the charge are giants like SMIC, HuaHong Group, and Nexchip.

Exploring China’s Wafer Foundries Landscape

According to TrendForce, excluding 7 temporarily suspended fabs, China currently operates 44 fabs (25 fabs in 12-inch, 4 fabs in 6-inch wafers, and 15 in 8-inch fabs and production lines), additionally, 22 fabs are under construction (15 fabs in 12-inch, and 8 fabs in 8-inch). In the future, SMIC, Nexchip, CXMT, and Silan plan to construct 10 fabs (9 fabs in 12-inch, and 1 fab in 8-inch). Overall, by the end of 2024, China aims to establish 32 large fabs, and all of them are about to focus on mature processes.

Reviewing the distribution of wafer foundries across China, the Yangtze Delta region hosts nearly half of the total, with significant concentrations in provinces like Shanghai, Wuxi, Beijing, Hefei, Chengdu, and Shenzhen.

Nearly 4.14 million wafer capacity in 12-inch will be ongoing per month in China until 2026

In terms of capacity, the statistics showed that China currently operates 31 fabs in 12-inch, including those under construction with fixed capacity for 12-inch. The total monthly capacity is approximately 1.189 million wafer capacity. Compared to the planned monthly capacity of 2.17 million wafer capacity, the capacity utilization of these fabs is close to 54.48%, still a significant room for expansion.

Considering construction and future planning, it is anticipated that China will add 24 fabs in 12-inch in the next five years, with a planned monthly capacity of 2.223 million wafer capacity. Assuming all planned 12-inch wafer foundries achieve full production, by the end of 2026, the total monthly capacity of 12-inch in China will exceed 4.14 million wafer capacity, marking a 248.19% increase compared to the current capacity utilization rate.

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