Samsung no longer No. 1 in semiconductors

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Samsung no longer No. 1 in semiconductors

Samsung Electronics lost its position as the No. 1 semiconductor supplier to Intel last year and is expected to remain in second place throughout 2019, according to chip market researcher IC Insights.

The market watcher added in a report Thursday that Intel is forecast to “easily recapture” its leadership in the sector this year due to a sluggish memory market in DRAM and NAND flash, which Samsung depends more on. The Korean tech company was on the top of the list for a full year from 2017 to 2018.

In terms of quarterly sales performance, Intel surpassed Samsung in last year’s fourth quarter. The comeback came a year and a half after the U.S. tech company stepped down to the No. 2 position in the second quarter of 2017. Before Samsung rose to prominence thanks to an unusually long boom in demand for memory chips, Intel had long been the top chip supplier between 1996 and 2013.

According to ranking of the top 15 global semiconductor producers, Samsung sold $12.9 billion worth of chips between January and March, a decline of 34 percent on year. This was the biggest drop among all 15 companies on the list. Intel grabbed first place, securing a similar level of chip sales from the previous year at $15.8 billion.

For the year’s first quarter, the combined semiconductor sales of the top 15 chipmakers shrunk 16 percent on year to $73.5 billion. Along the way, most companies on the list saw their sales figures decline. Intel remained similar to last year and China’s HiSilicon and Japan’s Sony joined the top 15 this year. HiSilicon grew 41 percent and Sony 14 percent year on year between January and March.

The ranking showed that the memory chip market is collapsing. The three leading memory leaders Samsung, SK Hynix and Idaho-based Micron managed to stay within in the top five, but all saw their sales drop at least 25 percent from last year. The only Korean company in the top ranks apart from Samsung, SK Hynix, also saw its on-year semiconductor sales plummet 26 percent during the year’s first quarter to $6 billion. For the first quarter of 2018, when the memory supercycle was ongoing, all three posted more than 40 percent growth over 2017.

In a March report, IC Insights forecast the situation and projected a 24 percent drop in the memory market this year. It predicted the slowdown would shrink the entire semiconductor market for 2019 by 7 percent on year and deal a bigger blow to Samsung, as 83 percent of its entire 2018 chip sales came from memory. The research firm forecast that Samsung will lose nearly 20 percent in annual chip sales to fall to $63.1 billion this year while Intel will regain its No. 1 spot by recording similar sales figures to last year, at $70.6 billion.

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