November chip sales turn out to be OK

Carnegie Securities Research has revealed that worldwide chip sales in November, while not phenomenal, were above forecasts at $26 billion. They were down slightly from October at $26.2 billion. 

It proves, says Carnegie, that inventory correction in the chips sector is “mild” – and since Q2 2010 sales have been “moving sideways,” citing Korean inventories peaking in September and experiencing a modest drop since then. Despite warnings from subsuppliers such as National Semi, Xilinx and Micron, sales were better than expected.

Handset chips performed well considering the soft sales and inventory that were forecast. The usual suspects kept them afloat with the iPhone, Nokia N8 and HTC models. In fact – while National Semiconductor warned the market for mobile phone chips was slowing, the shipments of the three most used chips found their strongest level of 2010 in November. Demand for smartphones and tablet PCs meant audio/video logic chips also saw a high in November.

The more niche insulated-gate bipolar transistor, or IGBT semiconductors, saw a record high thanks to strong spending on energy efficiency in both lighting and cars. However, solar inverters dropped after a “strong run”.

Other analysts agree, and Carnegie confirms that the LCD TV market took a hit following the world cup. 

The relationship between Apple and Samsung in NAND, the former being the biggest buyer while the latter the biggest seller, strengthened in November as well. PC memory chips weakened, thanks to selling computers with less memory – and partly, says Carnegie, due to the new capacity starting. There was a “modest” improvement for processor chips from the likes of Intel and AMD though it was the corporate market that kept shipments going rather than consumer buys. Demand for computers in the US slipped in October, following record highs at the end of the third quarter. 

Meanwhile, in Japan, Carnegie suggests that sales are on the up and up. Chip production is “rebounding modestly” and electronic parts production is expected to rise. Outfits like Murata, Kyocera and Rohm have strong production penned in for December and January, which should “ease tightness in passive components like capacitors.”

Korea has seen a cut-off point for excessive inventories, including chipmakers and producers of mobile phones. Its chip exports will stabilise in December while it keeps a “high share of commodity semiconductors” thanks to DRAM and NAND.

Carnegie still expects chip sales to rise five percent in 2011.