TrendForce reports that global demand for MLCCs is set to experience a period of slow growth from 2023 to 2024. With limited opportunities for industry growth, the demand for MLCCs in 2023 is estimated to be around 4.193 trillion units, with a modest annual growth rate of about 3%.
TrendForce reports that MLCC suppliers are also experiencing a resurgence, with their monthly average BB ratio—a key market indicator—rising from 0.84 in April to 0.91 in early July. In tandem, total shipment volume saw a remarkable 12% growth, climbing from 345 billion units in March to 389 billion units in June.
According to TrendForce’s recent analysis of the MLCC market, suppliers’ average book-to-bill (BB) ratio has risen slightly to 0.79 this February. The flow of orders has slowed down as seasonality affects the demand related to consumer electronics, data centers, and 5G network infrastructure. However, orders for automotive MLCCs may be able to grow in volume due to Tesla initiating a round of price cuts on its vehicles.
The latest research from global market intelligence firm TrendForce finds that the usual demand surge related to the year-end holiday season is not materializing during this second half of the year due to several factors. First, the data about the global economy continue to show a negative outlook, and the consumer electronics market is unable to shake off the constraining influence of high inflation and rising interest rates. Furthermore, at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party that was held this October, the leadership of the Chinese government made it clear that the strict zero-COVID policy will remain in force. Lastly, ODMs are having problems lowering their inventories, and the whole supply chain from the upstream to the downstream is still experiencing inventory-related issues as well. Hence, in view of the underwhelming peak season and ODMs’ cautious approach to stocking up, TrendForce estimates that the average BB (book-to-bill) ratio of MLCC suppliers will have slipped slightly to 0.81 in 4Q22.
With the course of the COVID-19 pandemic constantly changing, China is sticking with its “Dynamic Zero-COVID Policy” and has been slow to lift the lockdown on its cities that have been recently affected by the outbreaks of the disease. Hence, the manufacturing industries of the major Chinese cities are facing delays in the resumption of normal operation, and a production gap has emerged in 2Q22. For the electronics ODMs, this production gap will be difficult to bridge in 2H22. Additionally, the ongoing global inflation is keeping prices of goods at a very high level, and this trend will dampen the peak-season demand surge during the second half of the year. The effect of the inflationary pressure has been especially noticeable in the demand for consumer electronics such as smartphones, notebook computers, and tablet computers. This, in turn, is also impacting the MLCC market in terms of demand and inventory. Currently, the general inventory level has risen above 90 days for MLCCs of all sizes. Therefore, TrendForce forecasts that prices of consumer-spec MLCCs will fall further by 3-6% on average in 2H22.
Due to the explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic in China, Shanghai has adopted a rolling lockdown policy since March and Kunshan City, a major production hub for the electronics industry near Shanghai, has also felt the impact. According to TrendForce, limited manpower and logistics and suspended transportation options mean neighboring OEMs and ODMs can only rely on onsite inventory to barely meet the needs of production lines, further exacerbating component mismatches. Concurrently, a short-term surge in finished product shipments and demand for material replenishment after the various lockdowns are lifted may gridlock customs authorities, with delivery delays potentially lasting until the end of April before there is any chance for improvement.
According to TrendForce, the consumer electronics market will feel the brunt of the weakening stay-at-home economy, the pandemic in China, international tensions, and rising inflation in 1H22. Coupled with the traditional off-season, demand for relevant applications such as PCs, laptops, TVs, and smartphones has cooled significantly and downstream customers have successively downgraded their shipment targets for the year, while demand for automotive, Internet of Things, communications, and servers products remain good. At the same time, the supply chain will build higher inventories in general to mitigate the risk of material shortages due to transportation impediments induced by the spread of the pandemic and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
The allocation of Murata's primary production hubs and production capacity is as follows: 56% in Japan, 36% in China, 3% in Singapore, and 5% in the Philippines, according to TrendForce’s investigations. Recently, a cluster of employees at Murata's Fukui Takefu Plant tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Since production diversion management had been strengthened and anti-pandemic measures implemented in advance, only some categories of production capacity have been reduced or suspended and this incident has not halted production for the entire factory. According to TrendForce, the Fukui Takefu Plant accounts for 20.7% of the company's production capacity, mainly producing high-end consumer MLCCs. The current production reduction or suspension of some items will affect the supply of products such as servers and high-end smartphones. Fortunately, Fukui Takefu still retains 4~ 6 weeks of inventory and this incident should not tighten market supply in the short term.