Chipmakers still investing

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 - Page 13

The book-to-bill ratio for North American-based semiconductor equipment manufacturers, such as Applied Materials Inc, rebounded to 0.92 last month, hitting the highest level in six months, but uncertainty about demand continues to cap growth, semiconductor industry association SEMI’s statistics showed yesterday.

A book-to-bill ratio of less than one indicates falling demand, while a ratio of greater than one indicates growth.

The three-month average of worldwide bookings surged 28.6 percent to US$924.1 million, from November’s US$718.6 million, according to SEMI’s data. The figure was a 16.2 percent annual decline from US$1.1 billion.

The three-month average of worldwide billings rose 10.6 percent to US$1.01 billion last month from US$910.1 million in November, and down 22.6 percent from US$1.3 billion in the same period of last year, SEMI said.

“Both bookings and billings increased in December, but remain below figures reported one year ago,” president and chief executive officer Dennis McGuirk said in a statement.

“While uncertainty remains regarding the 2013 equipment outlook, the foundry and advanced packaging segments are the key investment drivers at the beginning of the year,” he added.

Earlier this month, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world’s biggest contract chipmaker, said it planned to increase capital spending this year to US$9 billion, from a record high level of US$8.3 billion last year.

TSMC is a rare case, as most chipmakers are being conservative about new spending amid forecasts for lukewarm economic growth this year.

Yesterday, Samsung Electronics Co, the world’s biggest memorychip maker, said it would spend a similar amount of capital on new equipment this year as last year.