[News] US Allocates USD 39 Billion Subsidy to Semiconductor Industry for Establishing Plants

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has announced on February 5th that the Commerce Department would distribute substantial subsidies to chipmakers investing in the US within the next two months. The subsidy recipients are expected to include companies like TSMC and Intel.

As per a report from Reuters, Raimondo discussed the progress of subsidies under the US CHIPS and Science Act. “We’re in the process of really complicated, challenging negotiations with these companies. In the next six to eight weeks, you will see several more announcements. That’s what we’re striving for,” she stated.

Raimondo did not specify which chipmakers she is negotiating with, but she mentioned in an interview cited by Reuters,”These are highly complex, first-of-their-kind facilities. The kind of facilities that TSMC, Samsung, Intel are proposing to do in the United States — these are new-generation investments — size, scale complexity that’s never been done before in this country.”

Last month, as per Bloomberg cited industry sources in a report, plans for the United States to announce substantial chip subsidies by the end of March are revealed, targeting companies such as TSMC and Intel. The US CHIPS and Science Act reportedly includes a USD 39 billion manufacturing subsidy, providing 15% of the total cost for each independent project. Each fab can receive up to USD 3 billion in subsidies, along with loans, loan guarantees, and tax exemptions.


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(Photo credit: TSMC)

Please note that this article cites information from ReutersBloomberg.


[News] SMIC’s Net Profit Halved Last Year, Faces Further Reductions This Year

China’s leading semiconductor foundry, SMIC International, announced its fourth-quarter financial results on February 6th. While the quarter’s revenue exceeded expectations, a significant drop in gross margin led to a sharp decrease in net profit by less than 50% to below USD 1 billion last year.

SMIC issued a warning, further revising down the gross margin for the first quarter of this year to around 10%, with single-digit figures at the lower end.

During the fourth quarter, SMIC International saw a revenue increase of over 3.5% to more than USD 1.678 billion, marking the only quarter of revenue growth last year. Net profit plummeted by 54.7% to nearly USD 175 million.

The gross margin of 16.4% was almost halved compared to the same period in 2022 and experienced a significant decline from the previous three quarters, reaching its lowest point of the year.

In the full year of 2023, SMIC International experienced a revenue decline of over 13% to USD 6.3 billion, with a net profit decrease of 50.4% to USD 900 million. The gross margin was approximately halved to 19.3%.

Regarding the decline in net profit, SMIC cited various factors including the industry downturn, weak market demand, high industry inventory, and fierce competition among peers, all contributing to reduced capacity utilization and decreased wafer shipment for the group.

Additionally, the group experienced a period of high investment during the financial reporting period, leading to increased depreciation compared to the previous year.

Looking ahead to the first quarter of this year, SMIC estimates a quarter-on-quarter revenue growth of up to 2%. For the first-quarter gross margin guidance, SMIC has provided a range of 9% to 11%, indicating a decrease of approximately 33% to 45% from the low point of 16.4% in the fourth quarter of last year.

SMIC also anticipates that, under the assumption of no significant changes, this year’s revenue growth will not be lower than the average of comparable peers, showing a mid-single-digit increase compared to last year. The capital expenditure scale is expected to remain roughly flat compared to last year.

The significant downward revision in gross margin guidance has drawn attention to SMIC’s strategic moves. According to a report by the Financial Times, SMIC is intensifying its collaboration with Huawei by establishing a new production line in Shanghai dedicated to producing chips for Huawei’s future flagship smartphones, focusing on the 5-nanometer process.

However, industry sources cited by the report have also indicated that SMIC’s prices for 5-nanometer and 7-nanometer processes are 40% to 50% higher than TSMC’s, and the yield less than one-third of TSMC’s.

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(Photo credit: SMIC)

Please note that this article cites information from Financial Times.


[News] Price War Among Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean Foundries? Chinese Foundries Reportedly Cutting Tape Out Prices

China, Taiwan, and South Korea’s foundry price war continues to heat up. Rumors of price reductions are circulating in the foundry industry, Chinese foundries allegedly lowering their tape out prices, attracting Taiwanese IC design companies to switch their orders.

Companies including Samsung, GlobalFoundries, UMC, and PSMC have reportedly seen customers cancel orders in favor of these Chinese foundries.

According to reports from IJIWEI, China’s SMIC, Huahong Group, and Nexchip began lowering their foundry service prices to Taiwanese IC design companies last year to secure new orders. Many Taiwanese IC design companies have been enticed by these lower prices, prompting them to shift their orders to Chinese foundries. As a result, companies like Samsung, GlobalFoundries, UMC, and PSMC have witnessed customers canceling orders in favor of Chinese manufacturers.

Due to the mature manufacturing processes in China, unaffected by US export restrictions, the lowered wafer fabrication costs have become attractive to Taiwanese IC design companies seeking to enhance their cost competitiveness.

Reports also indicate that this competitive pressure has forced Taiwan’s foundries, UMC and PSMC, to follow suit by reducing their prices. UMC has lowered its 12-inch wafer foundry services by an average of 10-15%, while its 8-inch wafer services have seen an average price reduction of 20%. These price adjustments took effect in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Earlier reports from TechNews had already highlighted that, due to the sluggish semiconductor market conditions in 2023, both China and South Korea aggressively reduced prices to secure orders, with price reductions of up to 20-30% observed in 8-inch and 12-inch mature processes. Taiwanese foundries also made concessions in terms of pricing.

Taiwan’s leading foundry, TSMC, had already initiated pricing concessions in 2023, mainly related to mask costs rather than wafer fabrication. It was reported that these concessions primarily applied to the 7nm process and were dependent on order volumes.

Samsung Foundry, which had previously remained inactive, also adopted a price reduction strategy in the first quarter of this year, offering discounts ranging from 5-15% and indicating a willingness to negotiate.

Looking at the global semiconductor foundry landscape, data released by TrendForce in 2023 showed that Taiwan accounted for approximately 46% of the world’s wafer fabrication capacity, followed by China at 26%, South Korea at 12%, the United States at 6%, and Japan at 2%. However, due to active efforts by China, the United States, and other countries to increase their local capacity shares, by 2027, Taiwan and South Korea’s capacity shares are expected to converge to approximately 41% and 10%, respectively.

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Please note that this article cites information from IJIWEI



[News] China’s ICs Imports Decrease in 2023, Chinese Manufacturers Focus on Mature Processes

According to a report by China’s financial media outlet Yicai, in 2023, China’s import quantity and value of integrated circuits experienced a significant decline, influenced by factors such as the overall downturn in the global chip market and the U.S. ban on the sale of chips to China.

The latest data from the Chinese Customs Administration indicates that in 2023, China imported a total of 479.5 billion integrated circuits, a 10.8% decrease compared to 2022, with an import value of $349.4 billion, marking a 15.4% year-on-year decline.

Industry experts suggest that the soft importation of integrated circuits and semiconductor equipment in China reflects the global economic headwinds in 2023, especially the impact of sluggish sales of Chinese smartphones and laptops. Simultaneously, Chinese companies are striving to increase domestic chip production to reduce dependence on imported chips.

Despite the time required for China to achieve mass production in the field of artificial intelligence chips, the push by the Chinese government to establish a more resilient chip supply chain has motivated local manufacturers to actively increase production capacity in mature nodes. These chips are used in devices such as automobiles and home appliances, unaffected by the current U.S. restrictions.

Public information reveals that SMIC, Hua Hong Group, and Nexchip are among the most active in expanding production, focusing on specialty processes such as driver ICs, CIS/ISP, and power semiconductor ICs.

With China’s significant investment in mature nodes, it is positioned at a time when the global chip industry is poised for recovery. According to a recent TrendForce’s data, China currently has 44 operational semiconductor wafer fabs, with an additional 22 under construction. By the end of 2024, 32 Chinese wafer fabs will expand their capacity for 28-nanometer and older mature chips.

TrendForce predicts that by 2027, China’s share of mature process capacity in the global market will increase from 31% in 2023 to 39%, with further growth potential if equipment procurement progresses smoothly.

(Image: SMIC)

Please note that this article cites information from Yicai

[News] China’s Chip Production Capacity Reportedly Set to Grow 60% in 3 Years, Doubling in 5 Years

According to a report from IJIWEI, research by Barclays analysts indicates that China’s chip manufacturing capacity is expected to more than double within the next 5 to 7 years, surpassing market expectations significantly. The analysis of 48 chip manufacturers with production facilities in China suggests that 60% of the expected additional capacity may come online within the next 3 years.

TrendForce statistics reveal that, excluding 7 dormant wafer fabs, China currently has 44 wafer fabs, with 25 of them being 12-inch facilities, 4 of them 6-inch, and 15 8-inch wafer fabs/lines. Additionally, there are 22 wafer fabs under construction, with 15 of them being 12-inch facilities and 8 being 8-inch wafer fabs.

Companies like SMIC, Nexchip, CXMT and Silan plan to construct 10 more wafer fabs, including 9 12-inch and 1 8-inch wafer fab, by the end of 2024, bringing the total to 32 large-scale wafer fabs, all focusing on mature processes.

Chinese firms have accelerated the procurement of crucial chip manufacturing equipment to support capacity expansion. According to the previous report from South China Morning Post, the import value of lithography equipment from the Netherlands, a primary exporter, surged by 1050%, reflecting substantial orders for semiconductor equipment from China in 2023.

Barclays analysts suggest that most of the new capacity will be used for producing chips using older technologies. These mature semiconductors (28nm and above) lag behind the most advanced chips by at least a decade but are widely used in household appliances and automotive systems.

While these chips could theoretically lead to a market oversupply, Barclays believes it will take several years, possibly as early as 2026, depending on quality and any new trade restrictions.

Earlier, TrendForce released statistics projecting a global ratio of mature (>28nm) to advanced (<16nm) processes around 7:3 from 2023 to 2027. With China’s mature process capacity expected to grow from 29% to 33% by 2027, driven by policies promoting local production, giants like SMIC and HuaHong Group are anticipated to lead the charge, potentially causing a flood of mature processes into the global market and triggering a price war.

TrendForce notes that as China’s mature process capacities emerge, localization trends for Driver IC, CIS/ISP, and Power Discretes will become more pronounced, leading to risks of client attrition and pricing pressures for second and third-tier foundries with similar processes.

Please note that this article cites information from IJIWEI
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