DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce, reports a growing demand for NAND Flash under the influence of traditional peak season and increasing demand for smartphones and SSD from servers and data centers. The gap between supply and demand is larger compared with the previous quarter. However, the contract price of all product lines increased no more than 0-6% in this third quarter after a long period of continuous price increase, and the current price is approaching the highest level that OEM factories can afford.
As for Q4, the market demand is expected to increase slower except for smartphones’ surging demand. In addition, the price is expected to remain the same or have only slight rise since 64/72-layer 3D-NAND devices have been put into mass production and applied to SSD product lines, gradually driving the market towards a balance between supply and demand. NAND flash manufacturers are expected to maintain their high revenue in the fourth quarter as the prices are still high. But the market is expected to turn to oversupply in 2018, as the 64/72-layer 3D-NAND development matures and brings an off-season in the first half of the year.
Samsung recorded a new high of operating profit margin, and the quarterly revenue increased by 19.5% to USD 56.2 billion due to considerable growth in bit shipments. This is a result of server demand and smartphone manufacturers’ launch of new flagship models, as well as the strong demand for high-capacity applications.
From the perspective of production process and capacity, Samsung 64-layer NAND Flash has been applied to mobile devices and SSDs since its mass production in the third quarter. Its application in products will continue to expand and the proportion of 3D-NAND in overall production is expected to exceed 50% by the end of this year. It is worth noting that Samsung is reviewing the need for continued expansion of NAND Flash and production capacity distribution to DRAM; it is also considering relocation of some space to DRAM production on the second floor of its Pyeongtaek factory. The relocation will likely result in undersupply in NAND Flash market, which is favorable for Samsung's future market strategy.
Driven by traditional peak season, launch of iPhone 8/X and demand for branded mobile phone in China, SK Hynix recorded a 16% increase of overall bit shipments in the third quarter. Influence by the trend of capacity increase, however, the average selling price dropped slightly by 3%. In this third quarter, the revenue of SK Hynix reached USD 1.5 billion, an increase of 15.4% compared with the previous quarter.
From the perspective of Hynix's future plan of production capacity, SK Hynix will continue to focus on the production expansion of 48/72 layer 3D-NAND, and will introduce mass production of 72-layer 3D-NAND in the fourth quarter as the main growth driver for 2018.
Toshiba's revenue recorded a substantial growth of 18.1% over the previous quarter, reaching USD 2.74 billion despite a slight decline in average selling price brought by changes in product allocation. The remarkable growth is brought by surging demand for smartphones and the increasing SSD storage capacity. Focusing on the supply to Apple’s new models, the Toshiba's bit shipments also increased significantly.
As for process technology, Toshiba continued its commitment to increasing production and yield rate after the official mass production of 64-layer 3D-NAND Flash in the third quarter. By the end of 2017, the proportion of Toshiba's 3D-NAND in entire production will reach 30%, and is expected to exceed 50% by the end of 2018.
In Q3, Western Digital witnessed considerable growth in consumer devices under the influence of traditional peak season and continued undersupply in NAND Flash market. On the other hand, its retail business benefited from the acquisition of SanDisk, with more product options available based on Western Digital’s original product lines. However, the average selling price declined slightly due to the brand’s gradual shift of a product portfolio with high capacity. As the result, the total revenue reached 2.52 billion USD, a quarterly increase of 8.9%.
In terms of process technology, Toshiba’s production of 64-layer 3D-NAND is maturing, and SSDs with this 64-layer 3D-NAND flash have been put into mass production in the third quarter before entering major OEMs for testing. The 64-layer 3D-NAND is expected to be imported to mobile devices soon.
Micron recorded a NAND Flash-related revenue of 1.84 billion USD, a quarterly increase of 7.7% due to the surging demand for SSD and mobile devices as well as an undersupply in the market. Regarding process technology, Micron and IMF put more effort in 3D-NAND research and development. At present, the output of 32-layer 3D-NAND is mature with a satisfying yield rate, while the 64-layer 3D-NAND has been put into mass production and is expected to improve the yield rate stably.
Driven by continued demand for SSD from enterprises, Intel's third-quarter revenue reached 8.9 billion USD, a slightly quarterly growth of 2%. With the configuration of the product remaining generally the same, the average selling price also kept unchanged while the bit shipments showed a slight growth. The overall product line has been converted to 3D-NAND-centered.
Regarding Intel's future product plan, the development will still be SSD-centered with a proportion of over 90%. Applications of 3D-XPoint are still in early stages, with a high price and small amount of users. Whether the brand can get more OEM customers in the future still depends on the trend of price and Micron’s successful launch of related applications. In terms of SSD for enterprises, PCIe interface is now becoming the mainstream as customers switch to Purley platform. Intel took the lead to introduce 64-layer 3D-NAND to enterprise SSDs, and continued to secure its future revenue growth by signing long-term contracts with customers.