TSMC Increases Shipments of 28nm Wafers by More Than Two Times in One Quarter

TSMC Significantly Boosts Output of Leading-Edge Chips, But They Are Still in Shortage

by Anton Shilov
05/01/2012 | 10:24 PM

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company last week said it had managed to boost ouptut of wafers processed using 28nm fabrication technology by more than two times in Q1 2012 compared to the previous quarter. But the company admits that it will only meet all the demand for 28nm production capacity sometimes in the first quarter of 2013.

28nm Now Accounts for 5% of TSMC's Revenue


"As we had expected last quarter, 28nm contribution more than doubled to 5% of total wafer sales in the first quarter. This was the fastest ramp in foundry’s history as we tried to chase customers’ massive demand. [...] Our Fab 15, begins 28nm volume production this month, and then ramp at a fastest speed in our history to reach about 50 thousand wafers per month by the end of this year," said Lora Ho, chief financial officer of TSMC.

Unfortunately, the company did not disclose the share of wafers processed using 28HP (HKMG) and 28LP (SiON) process technology in Q1 2012. Last quarter the vast majority of 28nm chips were made using 28LP and given TSMC's plan to increase output of 28nm HKMG-based products to around 50% [of all 28nm wafers] by the end of the year, it is highly likely that in Q1 2012 the company also produced the majority of 28nm chips using silicon oxynitride-based  fabrication process.

Shortages of 28nm Chips to Persist, HKMG Ramps Up Slowly

Keeping in mind that companies like Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia Corp. use 28HP/HKMG process technology to make their high-performance graphics processing units, it is likely that they will continue to get lower amount of 28nm chips than they would like to for several quarters down the road.

Despite of massive investments into expansion of production capacities, even the head of TSMC, Morris Chang, makes no secret that the supply of 28nm chips will not meet demand till early 2013, which means that the ramp up of 28nm production capacity to levels higher than 10% of total wafer revenue will take around six quarters.

"I think the worst of the supply shortage is behind us. We expect that we will be close to catching up in the fourth quarter this year. We expect to have completely caught up with demand by the first quarter next year," said Morris Chang, the chairman and chief exec of TSMC.

TSMC disclosed that the total amount of wafers processed using 28nm manufacturing technology will be from 350 thousand to 400 thousand units for the whole calendar 2012, which is a very significant number. Still, considering the fact than barely 30% - 35% of those wafers will rely on HKMG process technology, TSMC's success with high-k metal gate in the first year of production will be significantly below that of Globalfoundries, which shipped 250 thousand of 300mm wafers processed using gate first 32nm/HKMG in the first year of production.

Revenue Shows Slight Growth, Profitability Is Negative

For the Q1 2012, TSMC has announced consolidated revenue of NT$105.51 billion ($3.612 billion), net income of NT$33.47 billion ($1.146 billion), and diluted earnings per share of NT$1.29 (US$0.22 per ADR unit). Gross margin for the quarter was 47.7%, operating margin was 33.6%, and net margin was 31.7%.

Year-over-year, first quarter revenue increased 0.1% while both net income and diluted EPS decreased 7.7%. Compared to fourth quarter of 2011, first quarter of 2012 results represent a 0.8% increase in revenue, and a 6% increase in both net income and diluted EPS. In US dollars, first quarter revenue increased 2.7% from the previous quarter and decreased 1.3% year-over-year.