SAN FRANCISCOApplied Materials Inc. topped the list of semiconductor equipment vendors for the eighteenth consecutive year in 2009, a year in which mere survival was noteworthy amid a painful recession and steep industry downturn, according to market research firm VLSI Research Inc.
According to VLSI (Santa Clara, Calif.), sales by the top 10 equipment vendors have slipped by more than 50 percent over the past two yearsplunging 38.2 percent last year after a 26 percent decline in 2008.
No region or industry segment avoided pain in 2009, VLSI said. North American suppliers saw sales decline 36.9 percent, while Japanese and European equipment vendors experienced declines of 35.6 and 44.5 percent, respectively, VLSI said.
Despite the rough seas, VLSI noted that all suppliers that were listed among the top 10 in 2008 survived 2009, a testament to their staying power, technology, products and management skills, according to the firm.
Applied (Santa Clara), which has topped the list each year since 1992, easily maintained its leadership as the No. 1 equipment company in 2009, VLSI said. The company's IC equipment sales started to recover about one quarter earlier than the industry, giving it better sales momentum in the fourth quarter, VLSI said. Applied showed the same competitive advantage it has over the last few cycles: reacting early and quickly to the signs an upturn was underway, according to VLSI.
Meanwhile, Tokyo Electron Ltd., which slipped to third in equipment sales in 2008, returned to the No. 2 slot in 2009, VLSI said. The firm said TEL maintained high levels of business with its major North American customer, which helped it sustain reasonable business levels when sales to memory customers rapidly declined. VLSI did not specify the North American customers, but TEL is a known supplier to Intel Corp., the world's top chip maker and biggest capital spender in 2009.
Top 10 semiconductor equipment suppliers for 2009 as ranked by VLSI Research (click on image to enlarge).
As ranked by VLSI, the top 10 players in 2009 were largely the same group that made up the top 10 suppliers in 2008, with the exception of ASM International NV and Teradyne Inc., which climbed into the top 10 last year. Hitachi High-Technologies Corp., which ranked eighth in 2008 slipped to 11 in 2009, while Canon Inc. ranked seventh in 2008slipped all the way to 18 in 2009, VLSI said. (In a recent edition of VLSI's newsletter, CEO G. Dan Hutcheson said it has become clear that Canon's seventh attempt at building an ArF scanner is a failure and speculated that Canon's "great white hope" could be to acquire nano-imprint lithography tool vendor Molecular Imprints Inc.).
Aixtron AG, which ranked 13 among suppliers in 2009, made its first appearance among the top 15 suppliers, driven by booming high-brightness LED market, VLSI said.
Companies ranked 11-15 in semiconductor equipment revenue in 2009 by VLSI Research (click on image to enlarge).