Intel, Samsung, AMD Fare Well in Tough Semiconductor Market, iSuppli Says

The global semiconductor market is expected to exit 2009 with a revenue decline of 12.4 percent, according to iSuppli. But while that will mark one of the most difficult years for the industry, it isn't as bad as iSuppli had predicted earlier in the year, when the forecast was for a revenue fall of more than 20 percent. Intel retains its top spot, and No. 2 supplier Samsung will be the only top 10 supplier to post a profit. AMD's strong performance in the microprocessor space helped the company limit its revenue losses.

The global semiconductor market may be wrapping up one of its worst years ever, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been, according to market research company iSuppli.

In numbers released Nov. 23, iSuppli analysts said 2009 revenue will fall by 12.4 percent-more than $32 billion-compared with 2008, and only one of the chip suppliers in the top 10 will see a growth year. However, given what happened in the last quarter of 2008 and the first quarter this year, such a decline isn't too bad. Earlier in 2009, iSuppli had projected a drop of more than 20 percent.

"There was little room for anything but pessimism after the industry suffered a sequential revenue decline of 21.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 and an 18 percent drop in the first quarter of 2009," iSuppli Senior Vice President Dale Ford said in a statement. "However, semiconductor sales rebounded smartly after that. ... This strong rebound means 2009 will be much less painful than had been feared earlier in the year."

The market saw sequential revenue increase of more than 18 percent in the second and third quarters, and is expected to post a 5 percent increase in the current quarter.

Fueling the rebound were the memory market and demand for chips for consumer electronics and wireless devices, iSuppli said. It was Samsung Electronics' dominance in the memory market that drove its 1.3 percent revenue growth for the year. Samsung is the top supplier of both DRAM (dynamic RAM) and NAND flash memory, the two largest segments in the memory market.

"Samsung is benefiting from its dominance in the memory market, whose performance was dramatically better than the semiconductor industry as a whole," Ford said.

Samsung is the second largest semiconductor supplier, behind Intel.

Qualcomm also did relatively well, with iSuppli expecting revenue to remain flat. The vendor was bolstered by its strength in the wireless space and its growing presence in the baseband chip market for cell phones.

Advanced Micro Devices is expected to see about a 7.6 percent revenue decline, which mirrors the amount of the overall revenue decrease in the microprocessor space. The iSuppli analyst said AMD made a strong showing in the microprocessor space.

Sony was the worst performing of the top 10 suppliers, with a 32.8 percent revenue drop for the year.