In a strong first quarter for DRAM sales, Powerchip Semiconductor posted a standout performance that caused the Taiwanese firm to rise to the No. 5 ranking in the market, according to iSuppli Corp.
Powerchip in the first quarter sold $432 million worth of DRAM, up 80.8 percent from $239 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, and an astounding increase of 1,068 percent from $37 million a year earlier in the first quarter of 2009. This marked the strongest performance of all DRAM suppliers ranked by iSuppli in the first quarter and far exceeded the total industry’s performance. Global DRAM revenue rose by 8.8 percent in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter, and by 178.1 percent from a year earlier.
Powerchip’s revenue has increased nearly 60 percent during each of the last three quarters. This caused the company’s ranking to rise from sixth place in the fourth quarter of 2009 and from ninth in the first quarter of 2009.
“Powerchip’s astounding rise is due to a significant increase in output and an improvement in product mix, which lifted its average DRAM selling price,” said Mike Howard, senior analyst for DRAM at iSuppli. “While still small compared to the dominant market leaders—Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Hynix Semiconductor Inc.—Powerchip has a lot of available wafer capacity and, if matched with the right technology, can be a serious competitor in the global DRAM market.”
Powerchip is engaged in a head-to-head market share battle with fellow Taiwanese firm Nanya Technology Corp. Between Nanya and Powerchip, the battle for fifth place has switched back and forth a number of times, with Nanya prevailing in nine out of the last 13 quarters. Nanya, however, fell to No. 6 in the first quarter of 2010 and had roughly 4 percent market share.
Samsung and Hynix in the first quarter of 2010 together owned more than 50 percent of the fast-expanding DRAM market.
With 33 percent share, Samsung padded its No. 1 position in the market. The company’s DRAM revenue in the first quarter of 2010 amounted to $3.07 billion, up 10.0 percent from $2.79 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009, and up a massive 169.3 percent from year-ago revenue of $1.14 billion.
In second place was Hynix, with revenue for the same period reaching $2.05 billion, up 8.5 percent from $1.89 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009. The company’s revenue for the first quarter of 2010 also reflects a spectacular 188.7 percent leap from a mere $716 million during the same time a year ago in 2009.
With market share for Hynix standing at 22 percent, the two top players in the DRAM market enjoyed a combined share of 54.3 percent, iSuppli figures show.
The rest of the Top 5 included Japanese-based Elpida Memory Inc., with a 17 percent market share; Micron Technology of the United States, with a 15 percent share; and Powerchip Semiconductor from Taiwan, with a 5 percent market share.
All told, the Top 5 DRAM players accounted for a whopping 90.7 percent of market revenue.
Although the DRAM market has been growing rapidly in recent quarters, it is unlikely that expansions of such scale will extend for more than one more quarter in 2010, iSuppli believes. For one, Average Selling Prices (ASPs) are losing some of the steam from last year. Furthermore, DRAM bit production growth is rising from the low levels seen in 2009—increasing part availability and placing further downward pressure on pricing.
Nonetheless, iSuppli does not anticipate any major upheavals in the market, and the top players should continue to hold sway. No manufacturer has significant new capacity coming online except for Samsung, whose additions will only further cement its position at the summit. With capital expenditures in the memory market north of $7.8 billion, Samsung will far outspend its competitors, many of which appear reluctant to commit to any rapid additional spending.
Beyond 2010, however, the DRAM landscape looks less certain, iSuppli projects, and capital expenditure decisions made during the next six months will have a significant impact in 2011 and 2012.