Chip Industry's 'Billion Dollar Capex Club' Expands

Release time:2017-06-01
source:EE Times

The ranks of chip companies that spend more than $1 billion on capital expenditures are expected to grow to 15 this year, the most in 10 years, according to market research firm IC Insights Inc.

European chip maker STMicroelectronics NV and Taiwan's Nanya Technology Corp. are both expected to join the "billion dollar capex" club this year, in addition to Germany's Infineon Technologies AG and Japan's Renesas Electronics Corp., according to the latest edition of IC Insights' McClean Report.

Last year, only 11 chip vendors spent more than $1 billion on capex. As recently as 2013, the number was only eight.

If IC Insights' forecast hold true, the number of companies that spend more than $1 billion on capex would be the highest since 2007, when 16 companies were in the billion dollar capex club prior to the onset of the last global financial crisis.

Bill McClean, president of IC Insights, told EE Times that some of the 15 companies may be inclined to cut back on capital spending after this year. While the top nine chip companies by capex spending—Samsung, Intel, TSMC, SK Hynix, Micron, SMIC, UMC, Gloablfoundries and Toshiba—are a virtual lock to continue spending more than $1 billion on capex, other companies may be stretching the budget for just one year, he said.

"Nanya is benefitting from the DRAM market surge and would likely drop below spending $1 billion when the market softens," McClean said in an email exchange. "ST has stated that this year's spending is a one year event. I also believe that Infineon, Sony, and Renesas are 'reaching' in spending over $1 billion and are likely to drop below this level over the next year or two."

McClean said he also believes that a few Chinese chip companies are likely to cross the $1 billion capex threshold in the next few years as they ramp new fabs. More than 20 new chip fabs are expected to begin production in China in the next few years as the country ramps up plans to invest more than $160 billion over 10 years to bolster its internal semiconductor industry.

The fifteen companies expected to spend more than $1 billion on capex this year are projected to account for some 83 percent of total worldwide semiconductor industry capital spending in 2017, the largest percentage in over 10 years, according to IC Insights.

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