Posting the highest year-over-year growth in 14 years, the global semiconductor industry grew 21.7 percent in 2017, reaching $429.1 billion, according to IHS Markit. Another milestone was Samsung toppling Intel as the market leader for the first time in 25 years.
Samsung reported 53.6 percent growth in 2017, thanks to rising prices and tight supply of memory ICs, coupled with high demand from the server market, which propelled the company to the No. 1 position. Rounding out the top five are Intel, SK Hynix, Micron and Broadcom.
“2017 was quite a memorable year,” said Shaun Teevens, semiconductor supply chain analyst, IHS Markit, in a statement. “Alongside record industry growth, Intel, which had led the market for 25 years, was supplanted by Samsung as the leading semiconductor supplier in the world.”
Two other memory IC leaders, SK Hynix and Micron, also saw strong growth in 2017. Both achieved the largest year-over-year revenue growth, growing 81.2 percent and 79.7 percent, respectively, said IHS.
“A very favorable memory market with strong demand and high prices was mainly responsible for the strong growth of these companies,” Teevens said.
IC Insights’ forecast in November 2017 predicted that Samsung would overtake Intel last year amid rising average selling prices (ASPs) for DRAM and NAND flash.
Gartner’s preliminary results in January also indicated that Samsung would topple Intel from the No. 1 position on the heels of undersupply and higher prices in the memory market. Gartner predicted that global semiconductor revenue would grow 22 percent in 2017, reaching $419.7 billion.
Strong demand in the global server market also drove high growth for memory ICs, and overall, for semiconductors. Revenue in the global server market grew 10.4 percent in 2017, recording 25.7 percent growth in the fourth quarter alone, according to Gartner.
Prices are expected to keep climbing for DRAMs used in server applications. Server DRAM ASPs are forecast to increase by 4 percent in the first quarter of 2018, followed by additional single-digit increases in the second quarter, according to DRAMeXchange.
Memory ICs achieved the strongest growth among all semiconductor categories in 2017, growing 60.8 percent. The DRAM segment grew 76.7 percent and NAND increased by 46.6 percent. Gartner attributes the growth primarily to higher prices; the result of higher demand and tight supply throughout 2017.
“The technology transition from planar 2D NAND to 3D NAND drove the market into an unbalanced supply-demand environment in 2017, driving prices higher throughout the year,” said Craig Stice, senior director, memory and storage, IHS Markit, in a statement. “Entering 2018, the 3D NAND transition is now almost three-quarters of the total bit percent of production, and it is projected to provide supply relief for the strong demand coming from the SSD and mobile markets. Prices are expected to begin to decline aggressively, but 2018 could still be a record revenue year for the NAND market.”
The semiconductor industry, excluding memory, increased by 9.9 percent, due to strong demand across applications, regions and technologies, said Gartner. Semiconductors used in data processing applications, for example, expanded by 33.4 percent last year.
“Intel remained the market leader in this category, with sales almost two times larger than second-ranked Samsung,” said Gartner.