By the end of 2021, there were as many as 958 unicorn enterprises in the world, of which 487 were American companies maintaining a significant portion of 50.8%. But the number of Chinese unicorn enterprises has dropped to 18.6% from 24% when I started calculating the number of unicorns four years ago. Owing to uncertainty in the future, coupled with the fall of many Chinese unicorns, few are talking about unicorns in China now. On the contrary, Taiwan has begun to examine why we cannot keep the unicorns that we've nurtured.
Upstream supply chains of handsets and notebooks are expected to witness order reductions as demand shrinks. A lack of capacity expansion has led to a shortage of NAND flash products. UMC invested in a fab, and is expected to earn back its investment in just one year, due to overwhelming demand.
NAND flash prices are being pushed up by Micron's and Western Digital's latest moves to increase their NAND flash prices by about 10%. While memory chip makers have been cautious about increasing output, semiconductor foundry house UMC has announced a plan to expand its fab in Singapore. Despite the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Taiwan's chipmakers see little impact on their supply chains.
The whole world demands microchips and electronics, and the frenzy for related products has set big plans in motion. The microcontroller units (MCUs) required for automobiles are already expensive and are only expected to get pricier. Both Qualcomm and MediaTek are relying on TSMC for 3nm chips that are in overwhelming demand. Unimicron's staggering revenues and profits have stirred it to plan for expansion, as it negotiates with its suppliers.
ICT firms mostly conceive the future cars as computers on wheels. On the other hand, the traditional automotive players are making all out efforts to hold their ground. I assume besides elaborate and sophisticated craftsmanship, carbon neutrality can be a vital differentiating factor for traditional automotive makers.
NIO is preparing to design phones that interact with its cars, and to implement those phones in-house. ASE hopes that its negotiations will yield an agreement to make 5G chips for iPhones. Taiwan foundries already produce 65% of the world's chips, but soon they might produce more than 70%.
TSMC dominates the global market with 90% share in 7nm and 5nm nodes. TSMC has taken initiatives that will allow it to own about 100 units of pricey EUV equipment by the end of 2022. This suggests TSMC still keep competitors at bay in terms of revenues and profits, coupled with advantages in prior depreciation & amortization of assets and R&D expenses.
Almost all major US clients who can afford TSMC's advanced manufacturing processes have placed orders with the Taiwan-based foundry for its sub-7nm nodes. TSMC reportedly wil also be the foundry partner of Apple's AR headset. And panel maker AUO is gearing up efforts for LTPS automotive displays.
Chip manufacturers are moving their fabrication of automotive chips from 8-inch wafer fabs to 12-inch wafer fabs. Acer is investing in a blockchain firm with NFT ambitions. Infineon is building semiconductor factories in Malaysia.
According to CB Insights, there are more than 900 unicorn companies worldwide, with seven in Africa, four of which appeared during January-September 2021. The funds collected by African startups during first-half 2021 were more than the sum accumulated during 2015-2018.
Power management IC makers do not want to spend lots of money on scarce 12-inch wafers. Innodisk will break ground on a new facility in Ilan. Many firms that can supply factories stand to prosper greatly when TSMC buys their goods and services to build its new factories.
The Israeli government will not object to Intel's plan to purchase Israel-based Tower Semiconductor for US$5.4 billion, as this is an expansion of Intel's investment in Israel. If we consider issues such as car connectivity and information security, Israel may be the next major semiconductor hub, in addition to Taiwan. What the Americans are looking for is a stable supply chain. They do not necessarily want to beat TSMC, but they want to have a stable and reliable production system beyond TSMC.
Because ABF substrates are in great demand, Kinsus is investing in expanding its ABF substrate production capacity. Foundries have been raising their prices steadily, but that trend might come to an end soon because customers are not so willing to accept further price hikes. Jaguar Land Rover is partnering with Nvidia to make cars so smart that they can drive themselves.
Western Digital is raising the price of NAND flash products. Tesla will soon deliver electric vehicles with the new 4680 lithium battery. Numerous tech firms all around the world are anticipated to intensify their efforts to develop augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and extended reality (XR).
The wafer foundry business is a highly concentrated industry in terms of revenue, with the top-10 players accounting for 98.4% and the top-5 for nearly 90% of global contribution ratio. It is apparent that in this capital-intensive, technology-intensive sector where tight relationships with clients are important, one could not dominate the market without multiple competitive edges.