TrendForce has reported the revenue ranking of the global top 10 fabless IC design houses for 1Q18. MediaTek and Novatek showed declines compared with the same period of last year, while other companies staged revenue growth. Among them, AMD witnessed a remarkable year-on-year growth of 67.4%, while NVIDIA staged a growth of 50.6%.
TrendForce analyst CY Yao points out, "the considerable growth of AMD was attributed to the strong sales gained from its computing and graphics businesses, which registered a YoY growth of 88.0%". AMD’s lower-than-expected revenue performance in 1Q17 also brought the growth rate to a high level. Moreover, the rising trend of cryptocurrency mining has also pushed the demand for new-generation graphics chips, which enable high performance computing. In addition to considerable revenue growth, AMD also acquired a net income of US$81 million, the highest over the past four years.
NVIDIA also saw high revenue growth driven by gaming and server markets. NVIDIA's gaming segment earned $US1.728 billion in 1Q18 while its server segment earned $US 669 million, a growth of 52.4% and 80.3% respectively. It is worth mentioning that, in NVIDIA’s earnings for OEM sales, $US289 million came from cryptocurrency related businesses, which shows how graphics chip makers have benefited from the global boom in cryptocurrency mining.
The smartphone market entered its traditional off-peak season earlier in the end of 2017 as the sales of new devices turned out to be lower than anticipated and the inventory levels went high. The major phone vendors have been more conservative towards the market situation in 2018, which resulted in fewer smartphone chip orders for Qualcomm and MediaTek. Qualcomm recorded a revenue of US$3.897 billion in 1Q18, but the performance was apparently weaker than the previous period, when Qualcomm achieved a revenue over US$4 billion for three consecutive quarters (2Q17-4Q17).
The revenue performance of MediaTek in 1Q18 was also lower than expected. This has been the fourth consecutive quarter for the company to see a year-on-year revenue decline. However, the gross margin of MediaTek has gradually recovered. For example, its gross margin for 1Q18 was 38.4% since the company’s adoption of 12nm process in manufacturing of P60 processors makes it more competitive in the market. Moreover, major vendors like OPPO have released new-generation models that adopt P60 processors, which will push the gross margin further although the preliminary shipments remain low for now. However, P60 products were released in the first quarter of this year, so they will not make significant contribution to the revenue until the second quarter, at the soonest.
As for Qualcomm and MediaTek’s performance in 2Q18, Yao says, “currently there is no further news about Qualcomm's next-generation Snapdragon 700 processors, which may influence the smartphone makers’ development of high-end models this year”. If MediaTek can promote the clients’ adoption of P60 products and enhance technical support for key clients while maintaining the gross margin, Qualcomm’s financial performance in the second quarter may be more or less challenged.
For the revenue ranking of the global fabless IC design houses for 2Q18, the top five companies are expected to remain in the places, but Marvell may have a chance to surpass Xilinx, ranking the sixth. It has been confirmed that Marvell would acquire Cavium to further improve the integrity of its solutions for networking and server markets. Cavium’s revenues have been remained in the range of $US220 to 250 million since the fourth quarter of 2016. The revenue will be added to Marvell’s in 2Q18 when the acquisition is completed.