SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It's official: The IC-equipment market is in a downturn right now. But will the fab-tool market recover in 2009?
Amid a slump in the IC industry, Gartner Inc. has once again lowered its capital spending forecasts for 2008.
Capital spending--and the fab equipment markets--are expected to decline even more than originally thought in 2008. (See table below for forecasts)
On the bright side, Gartner sees a recovery in 2009. But the 2008 numbers are far worse than Gartner's last forecast in December--and updated figures in April.
Gartner's updated forecast reflects ''significant oversupply'' conditions in the DRAM and NAND flash memory segments. Worldwide memory spending is expected to decline 32.1 percent, with DRAM down 40.5 percent and NAND flash down 19 percent.
Overall capital spending is projected to fall by 22.4 percent in 2008, compared to minus 19.8 percent in the previous forecast, according to Gartner.
Worldwide semiconductor capital equipment spending is projected to fall 20.6 percent, according to Gartner (Stamford, Conn.). In the previous forecast, worldwide semiconductor capital equipment was expected to fall 17.4 percent.
In December, Gartner originally predicted that overall capital spending would drop 13.2 percent. At that time, the research firm said equipment spending would drop 9.9 percent.
''The anticipated bursting of the capital spending bubble in memory markets, combined with continued uncertainty in the global economic picture, drives the semiconductor capital equipment markets into contraction in 2008,'' according to a new report from Gartner. ''All segments are reporting decreased spending plans, and there is little upside potential currently visible for the near term. Our most likely scenario has spending growth returning in 2009.''
''The next six to 12 months will be another period of uncertainty and risks for the semiconductor manufacturing and equipment industries,'' said Klaus Rinnen, managing vice president for Gartner's semiconductor manufacturing group, in a statement.
''The bursting of the DRAM spending bubble should come as a surprise to no one; the fact that it coincides with downward economic pressures and the uncertain impact on semiconductor demand adds significant risk to an already grim forecast for capital equipment,'' he said.
The outlook, however, appears to be somewhat mixed. ''We are still forecasting a capital spending recovery in 2009, as the oversupply of DRAM capacity is resolved,'' according to Gartner. ''However, we have reduced our expectations for capital spending growth because the latest global economic forecasts show lingering concerns, causing expectations to be slightly below those for 2008. Semiconductor capital spending should grow 7.6 percent in our most likely scenario, which would drive growth in all the equipment segments. However, this forecast is not without risks.''
Looking beyond 2009, Gartner sees an 18.2 percent capital spending increase in 2010. 2011 will see the next decline of 9.4 percent, followed by 7 percent growth in 2012.
Here are some key findings in the report:
*The wafer fab equipment (WFE) segment will decline 21.5 percent in 2008.
*The packaging and assembly equipment (PAE) segment will decline 15.2 percent in 2008.
*The automated test equipment (ATE) segment will decline 20.3 percent in 2008.
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