Semiconductor industry heads to Mount Doom

Some analysts are revising their figures for global semiconductor revenues. Though the market won’t perform as well as expected, very small growth is still penned in for the full 2011. 

Originally, IHS predicted that global semiconductor revenues would grow by 2.9 percent, which was not exactly cause for putting the champers on ice. The revised figure sits at 1.2 percent growth compared to 2010. 

The market was saved by the third quarter. During the rest of the year, the dom and gloom which kept piling up looked like it was rubbing off on the semi industry too. But Q3 was able to show signs of growth at 3.5 percent compared to Q2. It was still lower than analyst predictions.

Some of the major players are stopping the industry from falling into a slump. Though plenty Q4 projections are pessimistic, companies like Intel, Samsung, Renesas, Qualcomm and AMD all think the last quarter will be strong enough, in turn saving the market from drooping or stagnating. IHS analysts believe negative figures are possible, but overall revenues would have to slip seven percent or more in Q4 alone.

This year, it was mostly natural disasters which were to blame. Unlike the shock-recession of 2008, where people stopped buying motherboards and spent their hard-earned on millett, there were two unpreventable disasters which really knocked the electronics industry on its head. First, there was the tragedy in Japan at the start of the year. IHS says the tragedy saw many Japanese semiconductor companies with damaged facilities, and in turn that brought the whole market down by at least 2.5 percent for Q2. Though aggressive recovery tactics for the third quarter did add roughly two percent growth.

Thailand’s floods, which have seen HDD manufacturers with their facilities literally underwater, are likely to have a noticeable effect on PC shipments. And when PC shipments take a knocking, that indirectly affects semiconductor revenues too, though the slump won’t show its face until the beginning of 2012 when the world begins to run dangerously low on hard disks.

Winners for the year will be microprocessors, image sensors and NAND flash, according to IHS. Revenue for each should be above 15 percent for the full year. In application markets, the strongest demand for semiconductors is from the automotive, industrial electronics and wireless equipment market segments. Chip demand growth sits between 7.3 percent and 9.1 percent for these.

Another problem for the market is in memory, with DRAM, SRAM, NOR Flash all set for revenue declines of 15 percent – or more – for the full year 2011. While NAND has performed well this year, it’s going to decline in 2012.

2012 isn’t going to be pretty either, according to the analyst house. Further weak economies, worldwide, are going to put a stop on consumer spending which traditionally drives the semiconductor market.

IHS believes 2012’s growth will be somewhere around an “anemic” 3.2 percent. OEM revenues will be somewhere around 6.5 percent for 2012, while an off-kilter supply and demand coupled with high inventory levels means semiconductors will suffer for that year, too. 

There should be stronger growth in 2013. As long as there’s not another recession.