Thu, Jan 04, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Global semiconductor sales lag forecasts

WEAKENING MARKET Although chip sales grew 31 percent last year, the rate was lower than expected. Analysts have pinned the blame on a sluggish demand for PCs

BLOOMBERG , SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA

Global semiconductor sales rose 31 percent last year, down from a previous estimate of 37 percent, said market researcher Dataquest Inc, citing slowing sales of chips used in personal computers.

Dataquest said the worldwide semiconductor market reached US$222.1 billion in 2000, compared with US$169 billion the previous year. In September, it estimated sales would reach US$232 billion.

Sales of dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, chips declined in the fourth quarter because of slowing demand for personal computers, Dataquest said. Gateway Inc, Apple Computer Inc and other PC-related companies have cut sales and profit targets for the fourth quarter and this year amid sluggish demand.

"The DRAM market took a downturn and prices have dropped sharply in the fourth quarter," said Andrew Norwood, an analyst at Dataquest. "That had an effect on other areas."

Semiconductor sales growth is expected to slow this year and next year even as chipmakers boost production to meet demand. Dataquest forecasts 27 percent sales growth this year and 14 percent in 2002.

The research firm will release its latest forecasts for the next two years tomorrow.

Chipmakers that focus on telecommunications equipment and consumer products, such as mobile phones and digital cameras, have managed to skirt the problem. STMicroelectronics NV, Europe's top chipmaker, reported that third-quarter sales outpaced the global market, rising 60 percent.

"Historically, the industry has gone through inventory corrections during the positive portion of the industry cycle, and we see no reason to believe that this current weakening is anything else than an inventory correction," Joe D'Elia, vice president of Dataquest's European semiconductor research, said in a statement.

The slowdown in PC sales has raised expectations that Intel and others might fall short as well. Intel's sales, mostly for PCs, grew 11 percent in 2000, Dataquest said.

Even so, Intel's worldwide share of the market fell to 13.4 percent from 15.8 percent the previous year, Norwood said.

In its global market-share ranking, Dataquest found Toshiba Corp moved up one notch in 2000 to No. 2, knocking NEC Corp to third.

Samsung Corp, Texas Instruments Inc, and Motorola Inc, were unchanged, ranking fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

The biggest market-share gainer was STMicroelectronics, which jumped two spots to seventh worldwide. Dataquest expects STMicroelectronics to report 2000 revenue rose 57 percent in 2000.

Hyundai Group joined the top 10, jumping to ninth from 11th, while Hitachi Ltd fell to eighth. Infineon Technologies AG dropped two notches to 10th. Royal Philips Electronics NV fell to 11th.

Sales in the Americas region grew 29 percent to US$71.7 billion in 2000, while Japan sales grew 33 percent to US$50.4 billion. European sales rose 29 percent to US$43.1 billion.

"The semiconductor market grows above 20 percent in a good year -- and 2000 is a good year -- and below 10 percent in a bad year," said Norwood. "Any other industry in the world would be overjoyed to have 30 percent market growth."

Chips used in PCs accounted for 28 percent of the global semiconductor market in 1999, while communication chips, found in cellular phones, accounted for 25 percent.

In 2004, communications chips will represent 28 percent of a market estimated to reach US$339 billion, Dataquest previously said. Personal computer chips will account for 25 percent.

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