In 4Q21, NAND Flash bit shipments grew by only 3.3% QoQ, a significant decrease from the nearly 10% in 3Q21, according to TrendForce’s investigations. ASP fell by nearly 5% and the overall industry posted revenue of US$18.5 billion, a QoQ decrease of 2.1%. This was primarily due to a decline in the purchase demand of various products and a market shift to oversupply causing a drop in contract prices. In 4Q21, with the exception of enterprise SSD, the supply of which was limited by insufficient upstream components, the prices of other NAND Flash products such as eMMC, UFS, and client SSD, all fell.
WDC recently stated that certain materials were contaminated in late January at NAND Flash production lines in Yokkaichi and Kitakami, Japan which are joint ventures with Kioxia, according to TrendForce’s investigations. Before this incident, TrendForce had forecast that the NAND Flash market will see a slight oversupply the entire year and average price from Q1 to Q2 will face downward pressure. However, the impact of WDC’s material contamination issue is significant and Samsung’s experience during the previous lockdown of Xi'an due to the pandemic has also retarded the magnitude of the NAND Flash price slump. Therefore, the Q1 price drop will diminish to 5~10%. In addition, according to TrendForce, the combined WDC/Kioxia NAND Flash market share in the 3Q21 was as high as 32.5%. The consequences of this latest incident may push the price of NAND Flash in Q2 to spike 5~10%.
NAND Flash prices for 1Q22 are expected to decline by 8-13% QoQ, compared to TrendForce’s previous forecast of 10-15% QoQ, primarily due to PC OEMs’ increased orders for PCIe 3.0 products and the impact of the lockdown in Xi’an on PC OEMs’ price negotiation approaches. To mitigate potential risks in logistics, NAND Flash buyers are now more willing to accept a narrower decline in contract prices in order to obtain their products sooner. However, as the Xi’an lockdown has not noticeably affected the local fabs’ manufacturing operations, the movement of NAND Flash contract prices going forward will likely remain relatively unaffected by the lockdown.
Currently, the consequences of Xi’an’s lockdown on Samsung is weighted most heavily towards the difficulty of scheduling shifts for personnel, according to TrendForce’s investigations. Due to restrictions on movement and other lockdown measures, Samsung must continue operations with limited manpower. Samsung is currently making active adjustments to reduce impact on output and the local government expects a return to normalcy within one to two weeks. However, if the pandemic is not properly controlled, short-term impact on the production utilization rate of the local factory campus cannot be ruled out, resulting in a slight decline in output. As for raw materials required for production such as water and power, supply seems to remain sufficient, though Samsung is still confirming the specific degree of any impact.
The Chinese city of Xi’an has been placed under lockdown due to a local outbreak of the Delta variant, although it remains uncertain as to when the lockdown will end, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Samsung operates two memory fabs in Xi’an, both of which are responsible for the manufacturing of high-layer count 3D NAND Flash products, and wafer inputs at the two fabs account for 42.5% of Samsung’s total NAND Flash production capacity and 15.3% of the global total. At the moment, the lockdown of the city is not expected to have a notable impact on these fabs.
Demand for NAND Flash products will undergo a noticeable and cyclical downward correction in 1Q22 as major smartphone brands wind down their procurement activities for the peak season and ODMs prepare for the New Year holidays, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. As such, the NAND Flash market will remain in an oversupply situation, with prices continuing to undergo downward corrections accordingly. However, PC OEMs have been reinstating certain orders for client SSDs since early November in response to improvements in the supply of upstream semiconductor materials. By fulfilling these orders, suppliers are able to keep their inventory level relatively low, meaning they are not under as much pressure as previously expected to reduce inventory by lowering prices. Taking these factors into account, TrendForce expects NAND Flash ASP to undergo a 10-15% QoQ decline in 1Q22, during which NAND Flash prices will experience the most noticeable declines compared to the other quarters in 2022.
The growth of the NAND Flash market in 3Q21 was primarily driven by strong demand from the data center and smartphone industries, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. More specifically, NAND Flash suppliers’ hyperscaler and enterprise clients kept up their procurement activities that began in 2Q21 in order to deploy products based on new processor platforms. Major smartphone brands, on the other hand, likewise expanded their NAND Flash procurement activities during the quarter as they prepared to release their new flagship models. As such, clients in both server and smartphone industries made significant contributions to the revenue growth of the NAND Flash industry for 3Q21. At the same time, however, suppliers also warned that orders from PC OEMs began showing signs of decline. On the whole, the industry’s quarterly total NAND Flash bit shipment increased by nearly 11% QoQ for 3Q21, and the overall NAND Flash ASP rose by nearly 4% QoQ for the same quarter. Thanks to rising prices and expanding shipments, the quarterly total NAND Flash revenue increased by 15% QoQ to a new record high of US$18.8 billion in 3Q21.
The latest analysis of the NAND Flash market from TrendForce finds that shipments have been below expectations for consumer electronics such as smartphones, Chromebooks, and TVs during this second half of the year. At the same time, demand remains sluggish for retail storage products including memory cards and USB drives. Data centers and enterprise servers represent the only applications that show relatively strong demand. With the inventory level of the demand side steadily rising, the procurement momentum of NAND Flash buyers will become more constrained going forward. The gradual weakening of demand is also relieving the shortage of NAND Flash controller ICs. Taking account of these factors, TrendForce forecasts that quotes for NAND Flash products will begin to fall in 4Q21, and NAND Flash contract prices will register QoQ declines of 0-5% for that period.
NAND Flash suppliers’ Clients in the data center segment were gradually stepping up enterprise SSD procurement after finishing inventory adjustments, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Moreover, the adoption rate of 4/8TB products in the enterprise SSD market increased substantially on account of the releases and adoption of the new server processor platforms from Intel and AMD. Although the recent wave of COVID-19 outbreaks that struck Southeast Asia weakened smartphone sales in 2Q21, the quarterly total NAND Flash bit shipments rose by nearly 9% QoQ, as PC OEMs still had plenty of component orders in 2Q21 due to the fairly robust notebook demand during the period. On the other hand, the shortage of controller ICs became more severe during the period, and the winter storm that battered Texas this February affected the operation of Samsung’s foundry fab Line S2 in Austin. As demand for NAND Flash products rose, the overall ASP also rose by nearly 7% QoQ, and the quarterly total NAND Flash revenue rose by 10.8% QoQ to US$16.4 billion in 2Q21.