Wed, Nov 03, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Tech firms stay competitive

AFP , TAIPEI

The international ratings agency Moody's Investors Service said yesterday that Taiwan's technology companies are expected to remain competitive going forward, although they will also have to deal with emerging counterparts in China as rivals.

The nation's semiconductor industry is becoming increasingly important in the global technological matrix as US and European firms outsource more and more of their requirements to businesses in Asia, the ratings agency said in a report.

"The key issues that shape the competitiveness of Taiwan's technology companies, which are particularly adept at manufacturing made-to-order chips, include their large scale of production and high technological expertise, which together attract global outsourcing orders," said Ken Chan, a Moody's analyst and author of the report.

"The island's electronics and semiconductor industry is highly diversified and integrated, providing flexibility to outsourcers," Chan said. "Competition from China, however, is now challenging Taiwan's unique position. The industry on the mainland is replicating, but with lower costs, the Taiwan model."

Taiwan Semiconductor Manu-facturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world's largest contract chipmaker, has a market share of above 50 percent of the global chip-foundry sector -- which has developed rapidly in recent years due to robust growth in fabless integrated-circuit design companies and an increased outsourcing demand from integrated device manufacturers.

Although China currently lags in technology levels, it is catching up very fast, according to the report.

Furthermore, China possesses a large domestic market with strong demand for integrated circuits and semiconductor products, it said.

Chinese chipmakers such as Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (中芯國際集成電路) and Grace Semiconductor Manu-facturing Corp (宏力半導體) are expanding output, as China repre-sents the world's third-largest chip-buying nation, according to Semiconductor Equipment & Materials International.

Another point of concern, Moody's said, is that Taiwanese companies, like their US and European peers, rely on various international firms for supplies of certain raw materials and patented technologies, a situation that inflates and adds volatility to the cost structures for technology players.

Nevertheless, Moody's said it believes Taiwan will remain competitive in global electronics and semiconductors, given its customer relationships, the capabilities of its electronics companies, as well as the diversified and mature nature of its industry structure.

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