Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. remained the leading contract maker of semiconductors in 2012 with sales four times higher than those of the closest rival. Globalfoundries also managed to substantially boost its revenues in 2012, whereas Samsung Semiconductor almost doubled its semiconductor earnings last year. Meanwhile, sales of UMC dropped.
In 2012, Samsung almost doubled its foundry sales and surpassed UMC to become the third-largest IC foundry in the world, according to estimates by IC Insights market tracking firm. It is believed that the company’s dedicated semiconductor foundry capacity reached 150 thousand 300mm wafers per month in Q4 2012. Using an average-revenue-per-wafer figure of $3000, Samsung’s IC foundry capacity currently has the potential to produce annual sales of about $5.4 billion. The analysts believe that the company will challenge GlobalFoundries for the number two spot in the ranking in 2013.
In 2012, Samsung was the largest supplier of smartphones in the world by a wide margin, shipping 220 million handsets; Apple came second, selling 133 million iPhones. Thus, in total, Samsung and Apple represented nearly a half (353 million) of the total worldwide smartphone shipments (750 million) last year. As a result, Samsung shipped application processors for nearly for almost half of smartphones sold in 2012.
After jumping by 82% in 2011, Samsung’s foundry sales surged by another 98% in 2012, easily making it the fastest growing top-12 foundry in 2011 and 2012. It is interesting to note that Apple’s 2012 share of Samsung’s total foundry sales was 89%. However, as Apple begins to engage other foundries (e.g., TSMC, GlobalFoundries, and possibly Intel) to produce its custom processors, Samsung will need to make up for these lost sales by signing on additional large-scale customers.
GlobalFoundries also managed to substantially boost sales in 2012 thanks to signing in numerous fabless chip designers, which primarily design their solutions around ARM architecture. While GF’s main customer – Advanced Micro Devices – lowered its orders to the company, it made termination fees which offset the lower-than-expected wafer shipments.
In total, the top 12 foundries represented 90% of total foundry sales (IDM and pure-play) in 2012. This share is nine points higher than the 81% figure the top 12 represented in 2009 (before Samsung dramatically ramped up IC foundry production for Apple). With the barriers to entry (e.g., fab costs, access to leading edge technology, etc.) into the foundry business being so high and rising, IC Insights expects this “top 12” market share figure to continue to rise in the future.