According to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce, benefitting from the stabilization of commodity DRAM price, less ASP decline than last quarter, and increased bit growth due to capacity utilization rate recovery and technology migration, the DRAM industry saw healthier revenue figures in 1Q12 than in the first quarter of years past – total DRAM revenue fell by a mere 2.8% QoQ. The latest global branded DRAM revenue ranking reveals, Korean makers Samsung and Hynix have a firm grasp on nearly 70% of the global market, while Japanese manufacturer Elpida and U.S. supplier Micron have switched positions yet again – Elpida returns to third place, while Micron falls to fourth. Taiwanese manufacturers’ revenue accounts for only 8.4% of the global market, a figure that is expected to continue decreasing as Taiwanese DRAM makers transition to foundry business and specialty DRAM production.
Samsung Sits Securely on the Throne, SK Hynix May See Turnaround in Six Months
Samsung continues to hold first place in market share with 41.4% for 1Q12, a slight 3% QoQ decrease. The Korean maker’s total revenue fell by 9.1%, a greater decrease than that experienced by other manufacturers. According to TrendForce analysis, this is due to the fact that the proportion of Samsung’s mobile DRAM bit output is high – therefore, the impact from the mobile DRAM price decrease caused noticeable revenue decline. However, as mobile DRAM is by nature more profitable than other application products, Samsung’s operating margin still reached 12% in 1Q12 – making the Korean giant the only DRAM maker with a positive operating margin this quarter. Second-place market share holder SK Hynix’s revenue stayed mostly flat in 1Q12, with less than 1% market share growth relative to 4Q11. Like Samsung, SK Hynix’s product mix is gradually expanding to specialty DRAM – thus, the maker was also impacted by the mobile DRAM price decrease. The resulting -18% DRAM operating margin marks the third consecutive quarter of losses for SK Hynix. However, compared to manufacturers further down on the revenue ranking, TrendForce believes the Korean maker has a better chance of seeing positive figures in the next six months, as commodity DRAM price is showing a stable uptrend, the mobile DRAM price decline is likely to slow, and technology migration to the 38nm process continues.
Gradual Improvement for Elpida, Micron Shows Strong Profitability
Japanese maker Elpida came in third in the 1Q12 DRAM revenue ranking with 0.3% QoQ market share growth. According to TrendForce research, Elpida’s bit output fell by approximately 3% QoQ, but as the manufacturer’s commodity DRAM output ratio is far higher than that of the Korean makers, it also benefitted more from the commodity DRAM price stabilization and saw healthy revenue figures for the quarter. However, since Elpida filed for bankruptcy protection on February 27, the maker has not disclosed plans for the future. Micron continues its head-to-head competition with Elpida, coming in fourth for 1Q12 with a 6% QoQ revenue decrease which resulted in a 0.5% decline in market share. In terms of profitability, however, Micron benefitted from its relatively high proportion of server DRAM output – according to TrendForce estimates, Micron’s server DRAM bit output accounted for nearly 20% of total production in 1Q12, far higher than Elpida’s 8%. The U.S. maker’s profitability again demonstrates the strong positive correlation between product mix and profit. Additionally, Micron is currently in talks with Elpida, and if the two makers are able to achieve capacity integration it will certainly help improve the DRAM industry, which has long been plagued by problems of oversupply.
Taiwanese Makers Show Stable Performance, Focused on Survival
As for Taiwanese makers, Powerchip’s commodity DRAM wafer start volume hit a low of 10K in 4Q11 after the maker stopped supplying to Elpida. In 1Q12, after Powerchip began selling to first-tier module makers, commodity DRAM wafer starts returned to 40K. As the Taiwanese maker is no longer operating as a foundry for Elpida but selling its own branded DRAM, Powerchip moved up significantly in the revenue ranking, with market share returning to 1.1%. Nanya’s market share increased from 4Q11’s 3.6% to 4.6%, mainly due to the increase in commodity DRAM price, which recovered by nearly 20%. Additionally, Nanya and Inotera’s wafer starts have been returning to normal in 1Q12, causing revenue to grow by almost 25%. ProMOS market share decreased by 5%. Lately, rumors abound regarding the maker, and its wafer start volume has been adjusted downward slightly – at one point, wafer starts were even completely suspended due to financial difficulties. As ProMOS’ creditors are currently negotiating with buyers, hopefully there will be a final decision soon. Winbond has already transitioned to mainly producing specialty DRAM. As HDD capacity has recovered since February, specialty DRAM price has returned to normal and Winbond’s revenue stayed mostly flat, with a 0.3% QoQ increase.