It looks like the semiconductor capital
equipment industry just lost about $1 billion in growth -- on paper. An audit of
1997 sales reports collected by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials
International (SEMI) turned up a huge error that will most likely reduce last
year's market growth to 7 percent instead of the 11 percent to 12 percent range expected.
The revision was made public with the release of SEMI's monthly
book-to-bill report, which showed worldwide sales and shipments of North
American equipment suppliers slipping in January. For the month, the
book-to-bill fell to 0.94. The audit did not impact
January's figures, but it did delay the release of the monthly index last week
while SEMI double-checked all of its numbers.
"It's a procedural issue and it is going to cause us to restate the worldwide
SEMS report from SEMI and the Semiconductor Equipment Association of
Japan," said Dick Greene, principal analyst at SEMI. "Right now, it will
probably make 1997 sales in the $28.4 billion range, which is my best guess,
instead of something like $29.5 billion."
The mistake in reporting was the result of a "communications issue" between
SEMI's accounting firm and one of its equipment members. "Essentially, it
amounted to a double count," Greene said. "The double count was in the
CVD chemical vapor deposition and etch reports." Greene would not
identify the member company involved in the mistake. SEMI does not
believe the error reflects any problems with the member's own sales reports.
Within the next couple of weeks, SEMI's new 1997 numbers will be
combined with market figures from the Japanese trade group to come up
with a new worldwide sales total for the semiconductor capital equipment