Global sales of chip-making equipment rose 48.8 percent in December from the previous month to U.S. $2.59 billion, an industry group said recently, citing strong spending by Japanese, South Korean, and Taiwanese chip makers.
The December figure was up 38.7 percent from a year earlier, marking the fifth straight month of year-on-year rises, Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) said in a preliminary release.
The volatile data are largely seasonal, but the December figure was the biggest since April 2001, when the industry racked up $2.87 billion in sales as the information technology (IT) bubble was drawing to a close.
Global sales of chip-making equipment totaled $22.1 billion in calendar 2003, up 11.9 percent from the previous year.
An official at the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan, which released the SEMI report, said the upbeat sales trend would likely continue throughout 2004.
``Sales to Japanese (chip) makers remain strong and South Korea showed robust growth as well. Taiwan is another strong area and healthy order flow suggests that sales will continue to be strong there in the coming months,'' the official said. ``Orders (for the industry as a whole) are still increasing, so we should see sales continue to grow this year.''
Industry revenues totaled $1.74 billion in November, down 15.2 percent from October's $2.05 billion in sales but up 48.1 percent compared with November 2002.
Semiconductor makers have been ramping up capacity to meet strong demand for digital cameras, flat-panel televisions, DVD recorders, and other digital goods.
South Korea's Samsung Electronics, for example, said earlier this month it would invest about $300 million in a memory chip line to meet demand for chips used in computers and in consumer electronics products such as cell phones and digital cameras.
Taiwan memory chip maker Winbond Electronics Corp unveiled plans earlier this month to spend $1.3 billion in the first stage of investment for a 12-in microchip plant.
Among Japanese companies, Sony Corp said 2 weeks ago that it planned to invest $1.1 billion in the business year from April to build cutting-edge production lines for microchips to power a new generation of digital gadgets.
SEMI's December figures showed solid month-on-month gains in every region, although the sales improvement in South Korea and Taiwan—both markets saw sales jump 75 percent from November—was particularly strong. (Reuters)
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