Nobunaga Chai, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei [Wednesday 26 December 2012]
Utilization rates at leading IC foundries in Greater China will remain under downward pressure during the first half of 2013, as the top-3 players' continued efforts to expand their 12-inch fab capacity are likely to cause an overall supply glut during the off-season, according to Digitimes Research.
The utilization rate for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), United Microelectronics (UMC), Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) and Vanguard International Semiconductor (VIS) is estimate at an average 84.8% in the fourth quarter of 2012, down from 95.2% in the third quarter, Digitimes Research has found. The high season has come to a close, and downstream customers are making adjustments to inventory.
With demand unlikely to see a seasonal pick-up until later in the second quarter of 2013, the foundries' total utilization levels will be brought down by a continued ramp-up of their 12-inch fab capacity. Nevertheless, sequential drops in utilization rates for the next two quarters should be small enough to stay above 80%, Digitimes Research believes.
With new capacity at TSMC's Fab 15 coming online, the foundry will see its overall 12-inch fab capacity rise to 2.405 million 8-inch equivalent wafers in the fourth quarter of 2012. Capacity already climbed to 2.273 million units in the third quarter from 1.685 million in first-quarter 2011.
Meanwhile, UMC has expanded its 12-inch fab capacity steadily. Combined capacity at the foundry's 12-inch fabs will reach 669,000 8-inch equivalent wafers in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to 525,000 units in first-quarter 2011.
SMIC operates in a smaller scale than TSMC and UMC, but the China-based foundry has been aggressively ramping up capacity at its 12-inch plants. SMIC's 12-inch manufacturing capacity will total 240,000 8-inch equivalent wafers in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to 236,000 units in the third quarter and 188,000 in first-quarter 2011, according to Digitimes Research.
Fourth-ranked VIS currently runs 8-inch plants specializing in the manufacture of analog, mixed-signal and other specialty semiconductors. The firm grew its overall capacity to 430,000 8-inch wafers in the third quarter of 2012 from 368,000 units in first-quarter 2011. Capacity for the fourth quarter is expected to stay at the level reached in the prior quarter.
Source: Digitimes Research, December 2012