Semiconductors off to slow start in 2015

A weak first quarter outlook for the semiconductor market is indicating a slow start to 2015. Intel recently lowered the midpoint of its 1Q 2015 revenue guidance from $13.7 billion (down 7% from 4Q 2014) to $12.8 billion (down 13%). The table below shows the estimated top 25 semiconductor companies revenue change for 4Q 2014 versus 3Q14 and revenue guidance for 1Q 2015 versus 4Q 2014. Of the 23 companies providing guidance for 1Q 2015, only four (Infineon, Freescale, Analog Devices and Maxim) expect positive change from 4Q 2014. Five companies expect double digit declines (Intel, MediaTek, SanDisk, AMD and ROHM). Some of the reasons cited for the sluggish outlook are weak business PC demand (Intel), excess inventory in the channel (AMD and SanDisk), limited supply due to technology transitions (Micron), a smartphone market transition (MediaTek), and uncertainty in electronic markets and exchange rates (ROHM).

Mar 2015

The average guidance is a 5.1% decline. The revenue-weighted average is minus 7.5%. Using the high end of each company’s revenue guidance for 1Q 2015 results in a revenue-weighted average minus 5.0%. Over the last five years, the semiconductor market 1st quarter change from the prior 4th quarter has ranged from a 3.7% increase to a 5.1% decline, averaging minus 1.0%. The market could potentially experience the worst 1st quarter decline since minus 16% in 1Q 2009 during the last major semiconductor downturn.

The outlook for the full year 2015 is varied. Forecasts since January fall into two general ranges: 3.4% to 5.4% (Gartner, IDC, GMR Data, and WSTS) and 7.0% to 9.5% (VLSI Research, IC Insights, Future Horizons, Mike Cowan and SC-IQ). The announced forecasts for 2016 range from 3.1% (WSTS) to 7% (our Semiconductor Intelligence or SC-IQ forecast). In December 2014, our SC-IQ forecast was 11% for 2015 and 7% for 2016. We have revised downward our expected growth for 2015 to 8% based on the projected weak 1Q 2015. We are keeping the 7% forecast for 2016.

Fcst Mar 2015

Key assumptions are supporting healthy growth in 2015 and 2016 as shown in the table below. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects accelerating World GDP growth in 2015 and 2016. Gartner is forecasting accelerating growth in the combination of PC and tablet units. One area of concern is slowing growth rates for mobile phones and smartphones. Gartner expects total mobile phone unit shipment growth to pick up to 3.7% in 2015 from 1.7% in 2014, but slow to 3.3% in 2016. eMarketer projects slowing growth rates in smartphone users, from 25% in 2014 to 17% in 2015 and 13% in 2014.


Annual Change





World GDP




IMF, Jan.

PC + Tablet units




Gartner, Jan.

Total mobile phone units




Gartner, Jan.

Smartphone users




eMarketer, Dec. 2014


Our forecast assumes solid growth for the key drivers of the semiconductor industry over the next few years. The trend from 9.9% in 2014 to 8% in 2015 and 7% in 2016 assumes moderating growth of some key drivers such as smartphones. Barring an economic downturn, the semiconductor market should experience average growth around 6% annually through the end of the decade.

Vietnam: rising star in electronics


I recently returned from a trip to Southeast Asia, including Vietnam. The trip was for pleasure, not business, but I could not help but notice the boom in economic activity. The coastal cities of Hai Phong, Da Nang and NHA Trang were trying to outdo each other in building hotels, bridges and amusement parks – largely to cater to foreign tourists. A trip up the river to Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon) revealed many huge industrial buildings including several under construction.

How does Vietnam fit in the electronics industry? The chart below shows exports of electronic equipment for key Asian nations from the World Trade Organization (WTO). The data excludes semiconductors and components. China remains the dominant Asia electronics exporter with US$477 billion in 2013. The next largest exporter is South Korea at $49 billion. Vietnam is eighth at $18 billion. However over the five years from 2008 to 2013 South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore have declined in electronics exports. Thailand and Taiwan each had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of only 2% from 2008 to 2013. Vietnam had an explosive 43% CAGR. Although the growth rate of Vietnam electronics exports is certain to slow in the next few years, Vietnam could eventually challenge South Korea as the second largest Asian exporter of electronics.

Asia ee

Vietnam had a population of 89.7 million in 2013 and a labor force of 53.2 million. The labor force is fairly young compared to many industrialized countries, with 50% under 40 years old. Total mobile phones exceed the population with smartphones at 23% of the population. 41% of the population are internet users, the same percentage which own motorbikes. If you have ever seen the bedlam on Ho Chi Minh City roads, it does appear everyone is using a smartphone while riding their motorbike.


Millions, 2013

% of population





Vietnam government
Labor force



Vietnam government

Mobile phones








Internet Users



Internet live facts


Foreign direct investment in Vietnam in 2013 totaled US$21.6 billion, according to the government. The largest investments by country were Japan at 27%, Singapore and South Korea each at 20%, and China at 11%. Electronics companies with significant investments in Vietnam include Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Microsoft’s Nokia division, Intel, Foxconn (Hon Hai) and Jabil. Vietnam experienced steady GDP growth ranging from 5.2% to 6.4% each year from 2008 to 2013 despite the global recession in 2009. There have been some problems recently. In May 2014, many Vietnamese protested a dispute with China by rioting and damaging many factories in Vietnam. Although Chinese-owned factories were targeted, some factories owned by Taiwanese, Japanese and South Korean companies were also damaged. The government appeared to successfully end the protests.

Vietnam has taken inspiration from China, having a capitalist economy with a communist government. Vietnam is well situated geographically – bordering China, in the center of Southeast Asia, generally less susceptible to the natural disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons) other countries in the area have experienced, and with several good ports along over 2000 miles of coastline. Vietnam is on its way to becoming a significant country in electronics manufacturing and semiconductor consumption.

2014 semiconductor market forecast on target

The 2014 semiconductor market was US$335.8 billion, according to World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS). 2014 increased 9.9% from $305.6 billion in 2013. We at Semiconductor Intelligence have held to our forecast of 10% semiconductor growth in 2014 since February 2014. Our earlier forecast in November 2013 was 15% growth. Most other 2014 forecasts released in early 2014 were much more conservative with IDC at 3.6%, Gartner at 5.4%, IC Insights at 7% and usually optimistic Future Horizons at 8%. Objective Analysis in December 2013 and May 2014 projected over 20% growth in 2014. Mike Cowan’s monthly forecast for 2014 was 3.6% in February 2014 but was raised to close to 10% by April 2014.

In December 2014 Semiconductor Intelligence projected 11% growth for the semiconductor market in 2015. As in early 2014, we are at the high end with January 2015 forecasts for 2015 ranging from IDC’s 3.8% to Future Horizons 8.5%. We will update our 2015 and 2016 forecasts in our March newsletter.