Intel chip lead sees off Samsung

Analysts reckon Samsung’s continuous nibbling at Intel’s knees has gone away, at least for the moment, as Intel’s performance tells naysayers that it is still very much the top dog of the semiconductor market.

Intel, reports IHS iSuppli, is on course to sell $49.7 billion in semiconductors through all of 2011, which is a 23 percent boost from 2010’s $40.4 billion. It’s quite a lot of money any way you look at it. The outfit believes strong sales will see Intel outgrow the semiconductor market and claw back share from 13.2 percent in 2010 to 15.9 percent this year.

As a result, Intel got 6.5 percentage points over upstart Samsung. That means the share is pretty much back to 2008, unlike last year when Samsung manage to threaten Intel by sitting just 3.9 points away from Chipzilla.

Actually, Intel’s success is quite unlike the rest of the semiconductor industry, said Dale Ford, an IHS analyst. It “achieved success on all fronts, expanding its core microprocessor and memory businesses, while also capitalising on a major acquisition,” he said. “This allowed the company to outgrow the market and expand its lead over its closest competitors, defying the impact of weak conditions and catastrophic natural disasters”.

Intel rolled with the punches, according to IHS, and made its money off the biggest trends in the chip industry this year – that’s microprocessors and NAND flash. Both areas are penned in for between 15 and 20 percent growth this year so the demand was there – Samsung is the biggest NAND supplier so quid’s in for Samsung Town, Seoul. Buying Infineon’s AG wireless business helped revenues for Intel, too.

Generally, memory hasn’t been doing too well this year, which means Samsung’s revenue growth will only sit at about three percent. Its DRAM business – where it leads the market – is expected to decline 27 percent in revenues for the full year. 

Others benefited from acquisitions in the year. Texas Instruments, sitting at third place in the charts, picked up National Semiconductor – which saw it usurp Toshiba for the spot. Its buy helped it grow revenues by 8.4 percent for the year. Meanwhile, Qualcomm bought Atheros, which pushed Qualcomm up three spots in the rankings to number six for the year.

IHS’ market share research has seen it very slightly raise expectations for growth in 2011, from the previous outlook of 1.2 percent to 1.9 percent. Natural disasters did cause a domino effect in the supply chain for 2011 – but the real villain is a dire world economy. It predicts a “serious drag” on the semi industry for 2012 with stagnant growth in the low single-digit range. A rebound could come in 2013. But don’t hold your breath. 

Here’s the full market share chart: