Ongoing coverage when it comes to the recent price hikes to DRAM contract prices happens to be now shifting to NAND Flash. Prices happen to be going growing after a low year when it comes to the memory market, fuelled by significant capital losses for manufacturers along with certain strategic production cuts.
TrendForce’s new data reveals rapid price hikes by suppliers for many reasons right from ranging from market outlook uncertainty to manufacturers offsetting losses. The semiconductor sector is most likely to see many different production strategies across various suppliers in 2024. Anticipations are still optimistic for a market rebound in the second half of the year.
Meanwhile, there are countries that will continue to push for domestic semiconductor manufacturing resiliency in 2024. With recent government funding aid across the United States as well as facility construction commencing across Europe, Chinese companies happen to be working overtime so as to boost domestic capabilities. China’s production capacity is all set to boom over the next few years since its imports of semiconductor equipment went on to reach billions.
NAND Contract Prices Witness Growth Echoing DRAM in 1Q24
In true cyclical fashion, the NAND Flash sector is indeed following behind DRAM. Earlier in 2024, TrendForce went on to report that DRAM contract prices happened to be forecasted to surge 13-18% in 1Q24. In 4Q23, there were already anticipations that prices throughout DRAM and NAND would see surges after a year of dips.
Because of uncertainty when it comes to DRAM’s market outlook, memory manufacturers happen to be increasing prices since buyers make bold purchasing decisions. Unfilled DDR5 orders happen to be fueling this uncertainty, with suppliers going ahead with production cuts so as to keep supply-demand tight. Buyers are stockpiling DRAM elements in some industry sectors, like graphics and consumer.
TrendForce’s most recent report goes on to reveal that even though the market faces a traditional low-demand season, buyers are indeed growing their purchases so as to establish safe inventory levels. The NAND Flash market will witness an estimated 15-20% growth during 1Q24.
As per TrendForce, with the demand struggling to keep in line with these rapid surges, future price escalations go on to hinge on the resurgence of procurement when it comes to enterprise SSD. The first quarter of this year will witness varied production strategies within the suppliers, with a few ramping up output early. This can very well lead to added pressure if the expected demand growth goes on to fall short, thereby moderating price hikes in 2H24.
Thus far, enterprise SSD has not seen demand spikes across the North American market. In the recent past, Chinese CSPs as well as server brands have filled the gap that NA CSPs left behind. This keeps the market buoyant and at the same time encourages buyers to bloat up their orders, thereby pushing SSD contract prices to a high of around 18-23% across 1Q24.
Meanwhile, eMMC as well as UFS products happen to be witnessing bold price hikes across both sectors as suppliers’ consistent production cuts have prominently limited production capacity. Due to the limited capacity, buyers must go on accept the price rises so as to prevent shortages. This is specifically true for the UFS market, wherein critically low smartphone client inventories go on to lead to UFS 4.0 being highly coveted.
Stabilizing smartphone as well as Chromebook demand happens to be the primary driver when it comes to buyers’ stockpiling and suppliers’ bold pricing plans. Some UFS series products happen to be witnessing price rises of more than 30%, with the anticipation of a high of 18-23% growth. NAND Flash will witness a moderate rise in 1Q24 at 8-13% from the diminished buyer enthusiasm.
It is well to be noted that uncertainty plagues the DRAM as well as NAND Flash markets, with buyers along with suppliers making elaborate moves while at the same time observing how the market pans out. Keeping a close eye on pricing in this year’s first half as more inventory mitigation goes on will be pertinent for buyers and also suppliers so as to prepare for the forecasted market rebound in 2H24.
China Goes on to Push Toward Self-Resiliency
Barclays Analysts have indicated in a recent report that China’s semiconductor manufacturing capacity is most likely to double in the coming 5 to 7 years. This analysis of 48 chip manufacturers having production facilities across China surpasses the previous market anticipations quite significantly. Research goes on to suggest that 60% of the anticipated additional capacity to meet these targets will be able to come online in the next three years.
At present, 22 wafer fabs happen to be under construction in China. Another 10 are planned to be constructed by companies such as SMIC, Nexchip, CXMT, as well as Silan in the months to come. All of them are most likely to come online by the end of 2024.
It is well to be noted that Chinese firms have also sped up the procurement of major chip manufacturing equipment so as to make sure the timely completion of these facilities. The import value when it comes to lithography equipment from the Netherlands, which is important in producing advanced semiconductors, has grown by 1050%. It has touched almost $40 billion, as per Bloomberg. The most recent growth came in December, as firms rushed to purchase ahead before Dutch restrictions on lithography equipment began.
In order to circumvent issues with export controls, numerous firms are investing in the China-made semiconductor manufacturing equipment development. Last year, sales revenue for China-based semiconductor manufacturing equipment grew significantly after restrictions were passed.
Barclays analysts anticipate that most of China’s production capacity will be held by mature semiconductors, 28nm and more over advanced semiconductors. Research goes on to suggest that China will likely fall behind in advanced semiconductor production for a minimum of another decade. Most mature semiconductors happen to be still used in household appliances as well as automotive systems, meaning these facilities are indeed a welcomed addition.
There is a challenge that the larger production capacity as well as the focus on mature nodes can very well lead to a market oversupply, but Barclays research goes on to suggest it would take many years to reach that point. It would also go on to depend on new trade restrictions, if any come up, and on component quality.
But TrendForce notes that China’s mature process capabilities, rising from 29% to 33% and pushed by local production policies, can cause a flood of mature processes so as to enter the international market and also trigger a price war. Such a move could very well take place around 2027. As China’s mature process capabilities go on to emerge in the coming years, one has to be prepared for this.