Intel, Samsung Lead Struggling Semiconductor Market: Gartner

Qualcomm was the fastest-growing semiconductor company in the top 25 and continues to benefit from its position in wireless semiconductors.

With the overall semiconductor market shrinking in 2012, the number of vendors that declined among the top 25 outnumbered those that grew, including Intel, which still managed to claim the top spot for the 21st year in a row, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner.

Intel's market share was 16.4 percent in 2012, down from 16.5 percent in 2011. The company recorded a 3.1 percent revenue decline, which the report said was due to falls in PC shipments. Samsung, which finished in second place, was held back by weak dynamic random access memory (DRAM) growth in 2012, as well as a dilution of the NAND flash market, although its overall revenue increased thanks to smartphone application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and application-specific standard products (ASSPs).

Total worldwide semiconductor revenue reached $299.9 billion in 2012, down 2.6 percent from 2011, while the top 25 semiconductor vendors' revenue declined slightly faster, at 2.8 percent, than the industry as a whole. The top 25 vendors, which also included well-known corporations such as Samsung, Qualcomm and Toshiba, accounted for almost the same portion of the industry's total revenue—68.9 percent in 2012, compared with 69.0 percent in 2011.

"The normal drivers of semiconductor industry growth—the computing, wireless, consumer electronics and automotive electronics sectors—all suffered serious disruption in 2012," Steve Ohr, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. "Even the industrial/medical, wired communications and military/aerospace sectors ordinarily less affected by changes in consumer sentiment suffered severe declines in semiconductor consumption. Excess inventory levels also remained a growth inhibitor."

Qualcomm was the fastest-growing semiconductor company in the top 25 and continues to benefit from its leading position in wireless semiconductors, with its semiconductor revenue increasing 31.8 percent in 2012 to $13.2 billion. The company climbed from the No. 6 spot in 2011 to third place and now trails only Intel and Samsung. Texas Instruments retained its fourth-place ranking, although Toshiba slipped to fifth place in semiconductor shipments.

In addition, Gartner's Relative Industry Performance (RIP) index measures the difference between industry-specific growth for a company and actual growth, and illustrates which organizations are transforming their businesses by growing share or moving into new markets. Qualcomm, which grew 18.2 percent better than expected, was among the RIP index leaders.

The only other company to exceed expectation by more than 10 percent was NXP, a Dutch semiconductor company founded by Philips. On the other hand, three companies underperformed expectations by more than 10 percent, including Freescale, STMicroelectronics and AMD.