SAN FRANCISCO—Total capital spending by semiconductor companies will increase by an 6 percent this year to an estimated $73.2 billion, with the vast majority coming from the top 11 spenders, according to a new forecast from market watcher IC Insights.
The 11 chip companies that plan to spend $1 billion or more will account for about 78 percent of total global capital spending this year, according to the forecast. By contrast, in 2013, only eight chip companies increased their capital spending by $1 billion or more.
The delta between the spending of the big chip manufacturing companies and the rest of the pack is wide and, according to IC Insights’ President Bill McClean, getting wider. About 10 years ago, the top five capital spenders accounted for roughly 40 percent of global semiconductor capital spending; this year that number is expected to be 62 percent, he said.
“It has been getting pretty top heavy and we kind of expect this to continue,” McClean told EE Times. He added, “But maybe it will take a breather for the next few years depending on what happens in China.”
China’s chip building plans currently dominate the semiconductor capital spending landscape. The country’s stated goal of pumping $161 billion into developing a domestic semiconductor industry over the next 10 years means fab construction. According to the SEMI trade group, of the 62 new front end chip fabs scheduled to begin operations between 2017 and 2020, 26 are in China, or about 42 percent.
According to McClean, the vast majority of the projects in China won’t be ready to start spending on equipment until next year at the earliest. “ It’s really difficult to tell how much the Chinese are going to spend this year,” he said. “If you talk to Applied Materials, they think next year is when they will start loading up.”
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