SEAJ: Japanese equipment moving down the pipeline March 31, 2004 – While keeping ahead of the pace from a year ago, demand for Japanese-made semiconductor equipment appears to have shifted from orders to sales, according to the latest figures from the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan (SEAJ). Worldwide orders for Japanese-made semiconductor equipment were 110.03 billion yen ($1.043 billion), down 20% from the 138.28 billion yen ($1.26 billion) reported in January, but still up 73% from February 2003 and the eighth straight month of year-on-year gains. Test and inspection equipment, which was up 43% in January, fell 42% in February to 25.69 billion yen ($243.6 million), its lowest level in six months. Wafer processing equipment also slid 21% in February. Together, these two categories comprised 81% of worldwide orders for Japanese equipment, their smallest contribution since April 2003. Domestic equipment orders in February fell for the second consecutive month to 51.29 billion yen ($486.3 million), down from 60.87 billion yen ($555.3 million) in January, but up 41% from a year ago. Dropoffs in wafer processing equipment and mask/reticles overshadowed slight month-to-month gains in all other categories. Worldwide sales of Japanese semiconductor equipment were 119.82 billion yen ($1.136 billion), up 25% from January and 52% from February 2003, led by double-digit gains in nearly every category. Domestic sales were down significantly, to 48.94 billion yen ($464.1 million) from 70.67 billion yen ($644.7 million) in January, but still remain above 50% gains year-on-year. A 44% drop in wafer processing equipment, which made up nearly two-thirds of all domestic sales, was the major culprit. January’s worldwide book-to-bill ratio (a three-month average) was at a five-month low of 1.15, down from 1.38 in January, but up from 0.95 in February 2003 and the tenth consecutive month above parity. A book-to-bill of 1.15 means that $115 in new orders was received for every $100 of product billed for the month. Domestically the B:B was 1.06, compared with 1.17 in January and 1.03 a year ago, also a five-month low but still the fifth straight month above parity.