IDMs could top fabless semiconductor company growth for only the second time in history

IC Insights will release its new 2016 McClean Report late next month.  The 2016 McClean Report will include a ranking of the top-50 semiconductor suppliers’ for 2015 as well as the top-50 fabless semiconductor suppliers.  The forecasted “post-merger” top-10 2015 IDM and fabless semiconductor suppliers are covered in this research bulletin.

Unlike the relatively close annual market growth relationship between fabless semiconductor suppliers and foundries, fabless semiconductor company sales growth versus IDM (integrated device manufacturers) semiconductor supplier growth has typically been very different (Figure 1).  In 2010, for the first and only time on record thus far, IDM semiconductor sales growth (35%) outpaced fabless semiconductor company sales growth (29%).  Since very few fabless semiconductor suppliers participate in the memory market, the fabless suppliers did not receive much of a boost from the surging DRAM and NAND flash memory markets in 2010, which grew 75% and 44%, respectively.

As shown in Figure 2, only three of the top-10 IDM semiconductor suppliers are forecast to register growth in 2015 and, in total, the top-10 IDMs are expected to display flat growth this year.  Although flat growth by the top-10 IDMs would typically be considered poor performance, it is still forecast to be a much better result than is expected from the top-10 fabless semiconductor suppliers (Figure 3).  In order to make direct comparisons for year-over-year growth, IC Insights combined the merged, or soon to be merged, companies’ 2014 and 2015 semiconductor sales regardless of when the merger occurred.

As shown, the top-10 fabless semiconductor suppliers are forecast to register a 5% decline in sales this year, five points worse than the top-10 IDMs.  It should be noted that essentially all of the decline expected for the top-10 fabless suppliers in 2015 could be attributed to the forecasted decline in Qualcomm/CSR’s sales this year.  Much of the sharp decline in Qualcomm/CSR’s sales this year is being driven by Samsung’s increasing use of its internally developed Exynos application processor in its smartphones instead of the application processors it had previously sourced from Qualcomm.

Fig 1

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 3

Application processor sales to fabless/system house Apple from pure-play foundry TSMC are included in the fabless company sales ranking under the “Apple/TSMC” moniker.  Application processor sales supplied to Apple from IDM-foundry Samsung are included as part of Samsung’s logic IC sales.

As mentioned in the title of this Research Bulletin, 2015 could end up being only the second year ever, after 2010, in which the IDM semiconductor suppliers outpace the fabless semiconductor suppliers with regard to year-over-year growth.  Whether this actually takes place will be revealed from IC Insights’ extended compilation of the IDM and fabless semiconductor company rankings for the 2016 McClean Report.


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