‘Miserable Year’ for Semiconductors Boosted by Sensor Growth

April 10, 2013
Despite plenty of bad news in the semiconductor industry in 2012, there were growth opportunities for logic ASICs, CMOS image sensors and sensors for wireless devices.

“2012 was a miserable year for the semiconductor market and suppliers,” with only eight out of the Top 25 chipmakers managing to eke out revenue growth—but nine suffering double-digit declines. This is according to final results from the IHS iSuppli Competitive Landscaping Tool (CLT) from information and analytics provider HIS.

Despite stronger-than-expected growth during the fourth quarter, global semiconductor revenue in 2012 declined by 2.2 percent from 2011, according to Dale Ford, senior director at HIS. “The last three months were the only quarter in 2012 that generated a year-over-year increase in semiconductor market revenue, but that growth was too little and too late to salvage a terrible year for chipmakers,” said Ford. Even so, IHS predicts global semiconductor revenue will rise by 5.6 percent in 2013, “bringing an end to the slump of 2012,” he added.

The bright spots in an otherwise dismal year for semiconductor growth were found in CMOS image sensors, logic ASICs, LEDs, display drivers and sensors. Growth in CMOS image sensors hit 38.8 percent, followed by logic ASICs at 19.0 percent. LEDs also expanded in the double digits at 11.9 percent. Meanwhile, growth came in at 6.9 percent for display drivers and at 6.1 percent for sensors and actuators.

The only other categories to sustain increases were logic ASSPs and standard logic components.

“Robust growth in smartphones and media tablets was key to driving growth opportunities for logic ASICs, CMOS image sensors and sensors essential to enabling new and attractive features in the exciting wireless market,” said Ford. “LEDs also have been boosted by their continued adoption in LCD TV backlight and general purpose lighting applications.”

Broad impact of downturn

Among the Top 25 suppliers, the only companies to expand revenue in 2012 were No. 2 Samsung, No. 3 Qualcomm, No. 9 Broadcom, No. 11 Sony, No. 14 NXP, No.15 nVidia, No.18 MediaTek and No. 24 LSI. The remaining 17 suppliers suffered revenue declines. Companies whose revenue fell by double-digit percentages were No. 4 Texas Instruments, No. 5 Toshiba, No. 6 Renesas, No. 8 STMicroelectronics, No. 12 Advanced Micro Devices, No. 16 Freescale, No. 17 Elpida, No. 21 Panasonic and No. 22 On Semiconductor.

“The semiconductor downturn had an extremely broad impact, as global economic uncertainty and weakness affected companies across all regions as well as the vast majority of products and application markets,” Ford observed. “Almost every major semiconductor product market suffered a decline in 2012, with double-digit drops in the major memory and discrete categories.” 

While there was plenty of bad news in the 2012 semiconductor market, Ford said the most dramatic change for any single semiconductor supplier was actually a positive development: Qualcomm’s nearly 30 percent surge in revenue.

Qualcomm’s revenue growth of 29.2 percent launched it to the No. 3 rank in the global semiconductor market in 2012, up from No. 6 in 2011.  Its share of the semiconductor market grew by a full percentage point to 4.3 percent, up from 3.3 percent.

“In two years, Qualcomm has risen from No. 9 to No. 3 in the semiconductor rankings,” Ford noted. “This is the strongest ascension through the top ranks by any semiconductor company in recent history. Qualcomm continues to capitalize on the robust growth of semiconductor sales to the strong market for wireless devices including smartphones and media tablets.”

Only two other companies among the Top 25 achieved double-digit growth, said Ford: LSI, with 22.6 percent; and Sony, with 21.8 percent.

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