SEMI posts 40% decline in worldwide equipment shipments

AUGUST 27--The latest consensus survey from Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI; www.semi.org) reveals that capital-equipment suppliers are even more pessimistic about when an upturn will come than the analysts that cover them.

AUGUST 27--The latest consensus survey from Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI; www.semi.org) reveals that capital-equipment suppliers are even more pessimistic about when an upturn will come than the analysts that cover them. The San Jose-based industry consortium recently released the latest results of its consensus survey for midyear 2001.

Twice a year, SEMI conducts the survey of 200 SEMI member companies that manufacture and sell equipment, asking them to supply their percentage growth estimates for various equipment markets for the next several years. Seventy-one companies responded to the current survey: 36 were North American-based suppliers, 29 were Japanese, and six were European companies.

The total semiconductor-capital-equipment market for 2001 will shrink from last year's highest-ever mark of $47.7 billion to $31 billion, which would be a 35% decline. Many industry analysts are placing that decline between 25% and 30%. Survey respondents predicted that the industry would pick back up in 2002, growing 12% to $34.6 billion in 2002 and 23% to $42.4 billion in 2003.

Broken down by category, SEMI member companies forecast that wafer-processing equipment would drop 33% in 2001 to $21.5 billion, before recovering to grow about 12% to $23.9 billion next year. SEMI members expect capacity-driven assembly and packing equipment to reflect the worst carnage this year, predicting a 45% drop to $2.1 billion in orders before recovering and reaching $2.5 billion in 2002. Survey respondents don't think test equipment will fare much better, expecting the market to contract 46% to $5 billion this year before improving to $5.5 billion next year.

As for what will help resurrect the industry and bring on an upturn, SEMI member companies aren't looking to a killer application or a resurgence of the PC, but rather the economy as a whole. About 73% of respondents believe the overall state of the economy will be the biggest overall driver for an industry recovery. At the same time, 81% felt the economy was the biggest obstacle to growth in the semiconductor industry, while 42% cited end demand for electronic goods, and 40% cited chip production costs.

A few bright spot in the worldwide quarterly statistics data were two segments in the wafer-processing-tools market, said SEMI analyst Craig Klootwyk. Since equipment orders hit their lowest point of the downturn so far last April, expose and write lithography equipment and chemical-vapor-deposition tools have shown some small improvements in orders over the past few months, on the order of a few million dollars. But overall, wafer-process tool orders were still down sequentially in the second quarter, and other areas of capital equipment have yet to show signs of a recovery or a bottom.

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