In 2022, geopolitics, tight supply chains, inflation, and pandemic are the four major variables affecting the international economic and trade environment. Of the four, geopolitics is the most critical, and the tight supply chain is most closely related to Taiwan's electronics industry.
Taiwan and South Korea, both strong in high-tech industries, saw their exports increase by 29.4% and 25.8% annually respectively in 2021. Korean Airlines, China Airlines, and EVA Air led the recovery in 2021 by becoming the world's three most profitable airlines with up to 95% of cargo revenue. With the wave of globalization that began in the 1970s, East Asian countries with long experience in efficiency and high education levels have become an indispensable link in the global supply chain.
In terms of weight, more than 90% of the world's transnational trade and transport relies on maritime transport, with the rest being mostly transnational land transport, and air transport accounting for only 0.21%. However, the high unit price and efficiency of air transport accounts for 26% of global trade. In 2021, Taiwan air transport in terms of weight accounted for only 0.23% its imports and exports, but because of the contribution of high-tech, semiconductor products, Taiwan saw 47% of the total value its imports and exports came through air tansport in 2021.
Since the beginning of 2022, we've seen weakening end market demand. The global notebok market increased from 158 million units in 2019 to 246 million units in 2021, and it's natural that the market may not continue to expand in 2022. According to DIGITIMES Research's latest report, global smartphone shipments in the first quarter of 2022 reached 319 million units, down 7.2% annually, and the annual growth rate for the whole of 2022 is likely to be only 3.1%.
Before commenting on the intrinsic strength of China's semiconductor industry, we must have an elaborate study on China's semiconductor market and industrial structure. According to Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), the total output of the global semiconductor market in 2021 was US$555.9 billion, up 26.2% from 2022, of which US$192.5 billion was generated from the Chinese market, accounting for 34.6% of the global total. However, this figure refers to the sales to local Chinese companies plus sales into China's domestic market, excluding the demand brought by foreign companies assembling diver products such as notebooks and mobile phones in China.
The semiconductor industry with a sophisticated division of labor has seen a rapid evolution over more than 60 years, during which the global capital market also has played a key role. The industry's development is a very complicated one, from either a political or economic point of view.
While Russian troops were bombing Ukraine, a US delegation led by Michael Glenn Mullen, ex-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, arrived in Taiwan, followed closely by a separate visit by former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Taiwan has never received such high-profile attention since it withdrew from the UN 50 years ago. Some attribute the dramatic change to the blessings of Taiwan's "sacred mountain range" – the semiconductor firms that locals believe are protecting the country.
The purpose of entrepreneurship is to achieve fame and fortune for sure. However, it is difficult to achieve success if the entrepreneur simply pursues a mercenary goal. Instead, strategies that benefit both the enterpreneurs and others can better construct the ecosystem with employees and customers. The upfront capital for DIGITIMES entrepreneurship was funneled in from several indusial leaders whose purpose was not to make profits, but to build a complete information supply and sharing system for Taiwan's ICT industry. Therefore, I often encourage all employees with the idea that "the prosperity of the industry is our common responsibility," which is an "altruistic" thinking.
DIGITIMES has long tracked the changes and moves of global unicorn enterprises. We've come to realize that it is difficult for small and medium-sized countries with limited market size and talent pool to foster unicorn-level enterprises over the long run. Homegrown unicorns will not hesitate to migrate and expand overseas once they have collected sufficient funds.
With the change of the industrial environment, the business strategies of enterprises must keep pace with the times. For about 20 years since the mid-1980s of the PC-led industry era, iconic brands had the final say. Taiwan manufacturing plants were moved to China, and local governments were wooing foreign investments. Manufacturers scrambled for orders to keep production capacity fully utilized, and makers strived to increase economies of scale - these were variables in market competition. Iconic brand vendors even introduced the "online bidding" model, uplifting the notebook industry with an annual demand of 200 million units. It was a rat race at this stage, when Taiwanese makers were fighting to survive, and Japanese and Korean manufacturers suffered heavy defeats. It was clear who would remain after the successive withdrawals of IBM, Texas Instruments (TI), LG, and Toshiba.
DIGITIMES started under the critical moment of the Asian financial crisis in 1998, during which Taiwan survived with its abundant foreign exchange reserves and relatively conservative financial management mechanism.
Acer founder Stan Shih, who has been in the IT industry for 50 years, has been my role model since I was young. When I got older, I started my business, and his experience had become my valuable entrepreneurial references. A while ago, I received Shih's newly released book "The Keys to Innovation and Entrepreneurship." I quickly finished reading it and tried to identify and come up with some industrial paradigms and insights. From the perspective of an entrepreneur, I am delighted to share my entrepreneurial experiences and thoughts.
Apple is cutting costs by adding more Chinese companies to its supply network, even though it has distributed production to many countries outside China. TSMC and Unimicron are making the M1 Ultra that will be featured in some of the newest and most glamorous Apple products. Industry observers estimate that revenue from Apple made up approximately 26% of TSMC's total revenue for 2021.
Even though a typical inventory of application processors might be only 100 days, MediaTek has noted that it is holding more than 160 days of inventory for application processors used in phone handsets. Several networking equipment makers that would typically use 28nm chips have decided to order 16nm chips to make the same products. Because customers continue to order foundry services, TSMC plans to raise the prices of its 8-inch foundry services, starting in 3Q22.
The customers of Taiwanese MCU makers are stockpiling, and MCU deliveries will proceed despite high buy inventories. IC design houses have promised to make chips at foundries, and now want to sell those chips over the long term to notebook makers. Thanks in part to 28nm production, UMC has a lucrative long-term agreement with Samsung that will move image processors and display driver ICs.