SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The integrated circuit business is now staging an apparent recovery, but the initial steps in the bounce-back are extremely uneven in IC markets when revenues are broken down into major product segments, observed IC Insights Inc. in its new monthly newsletter this week.
Five out of nine major IC product categories showed double-digit declines in revenues when January sales were compared to last October, said the market research firm. The January-to-October comparison matches up the first months of sequential quarters, and even when seasonal factors are considered, the difference in IC revenues was only a "shallow 4%" decline in January, which underscores the "bottoming" of the downturn, said IC Insights.
Overall, IC revenues in the first quarter of 2002 are now expected to reach $25.8 billion compared to $26.4 billion in Q4 of 2001--a 2.3% sequential drop, said the Scottsdale research firm. IC Insights said it is estimating that February's integrated circuit revenues will be equal to January's $8 billion. March is typically 20-to-25% higher than February because of the increased number of weeks (five instead of four for accounting purposes), said IC Insights.
However, not all IC market segments are recovering or even bouncing off the recession's bottom at the same rate, based on the company's analysis of January-vs.-October sales and unit shipments.
In the comparison of those two months, IC Insights said double-digit percentage declines in revenues were recorded in analog ICs (-13%), microcontrollers (-14%), standard cell ICs (-15%), special-purpose processors (-22%), and flash memory (-11%). Revenues for digital signal processors (DSP) dropped 6% in January vs. October, said the report. (Discrete/opto/sensors--which fall outside of the integrated circuit segments--dropped 13%.)
But programmable logic devices surged 68% and DRAMs rocketed 89% from their lowest revenues levels in the 2001 downturn when January sales were compared to October, said IC Insights. Microprocessor revenues grew 2% in the January-to-October comparison.
Both programmable logic and DRAMs got a boost from strong recoveries in average selling prices--a 35% increase for programmable logic devices and a whopping 82% jump in DRAM prices when January ASPs were compared to October, said IC Insights. The microprocessor segment also got a shot in the arm from ASPs, which were 20% higher in January than October, but unit shipments were down 15%, erasing the overall revenue gain.
Programmable logic also got a strong boost from unit shipments--a 25% increase in January vs. October--while DRAM unit volumes were up just 4% from October, according to the IC Insights report.
Somewhat sobering was the fact that programmable logic devices and DRAM revenues were both down sharply in January compared to the same month last year, noted IC Insights' report. The research firm said programmable logic device revenues totaled $154 million in January, a decline of 62% from the same month last year, and DRAM sales were $1.1 billion in January, a drop of 23% from a year ago.
Overall, IC revenues were $7.76 billion worldwide in January, a 29% decline from the same month last year and 4% lower than October 2001, said the research firm. IC unit shipments totaled 4.74 million devices in January, a decline of 17% from a year ago and a drop of 9% from October. (Total semiconductor revenues, including discrete devices, reached $9.02 billion in January, a decline of 30% from a year ago and down 5% from October, said the report.)
"IC Insights continues to stress the importance of changes in IC average selling prices (ASPs) in determining the overall health of the IC industry. With IC ASPs increasing 6% in January 2002 as compared to October (led by a surge in MPU and DRAM ASPs), IC Insights believes that a foundation is being established for a significant IC market upturn in the second half of the year," said the March newsletter.
--J. Robert Lineback