The book-to-bill ratio for North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment rose to an eight-month high of 0.95 last month, in a new sign of steady recovery for the industry, according to global semiconductor industry association SEMI.
A book-to-bill ratio of 0.95 means that US$95 worth of orders were received for every US$100 of product billed for the month. That was the best since May last year, when the ratio dropped to 0.97 with US$1.62 billion in bookings.
“In January 2012, North American equipment makers experienced their fourth consecutive month of improvement in orders,” SEMI president and CEO Denny McGuirk said in a press release. “While year-over-year bookings and billings are lower than in 2011, the current outlook for equipment spending in 2012 has improved over the past couple of months.”
The three-month average for worldwide bookings grew 7 percent to US$1.18 billion last month, compared with US$1.1 billion in December last year, according to SEMI. On an annual basis, the figure represented a 22.1 percent decline from US$1.51 billion in January last year.
Global semiconductor equipment spending is expected to decline 11 percent this year to US$35 billion, from a record-high US$39.23 billion last year, SEMI said in a report released last month.
South Korea is forecast to be the only growth area this year, with spending projected to jump 38 percent to US$10.26 billion, according to SEMI. That would make South Korea the biggest semiconductor equipment buyer, overtaking the US.
Taiwan ranks No. 2, with equipment spending dropping nearly 12 percent year-on-year to US$7.05 billion this year, SEMI said.
On Jan. 19, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) said it would spend US$6 billion on new equipment, mostly for new-generation technology this year, down 18 percent from US$7.29 billion last year.
Its rivals, US chip giant Intel and Samsung Electronics of South Korea, plan to spend more this year, targeting 16 percent and 33 percent growth in their expenditure to US$12.5 billion and US$12.2 billion respectively amid intensifying technology competition.