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Breaking a three-year double-digit-growth streak, the worldwide semiconductor foundry market grew 4.4 percent in 2015 to achieve $48.8 billion in revenue, according to final results by Gartner, Inc.
"In 2015, semiconductor device market revenue declined due to excess IC inventory, poor demand for mobile products and PCs, and slowing tablet sales," said Samuel Wang, research vice president at Gartner. "The slowdown in the device market has driven semiconductor producers to be conservative in placing wafer orders to foundries. Foundry growth was only possible from the high wafer demand by Apple and the revenue conversion of a few integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) to foundries."
Among the top players, the leader, TSMC, grew 5.5 percent in 2015, driven by the success of 20 nm planar and 16 nm Fin field-effect transistor (FinFET) technologies serving the need of application processors and baseband modem chips (see Table 1). Globalfoundries moved into the No. 2 position with 9.6 percent of the market. The No. 3 position went to UMC with $4.5 billion revenue, representing 9.3 percent of the market.
Price competition in advanced process technologies in 2015 was exceptionally strong, not only on the 28 nm node, as more foundry suppliers have started the production volume of 28 nm polySiON technology, but also on 65 nm and 40 nm. In contrast to the highly utilized 200 mm fabs from fingerprint ID chips and power management ICs, the low 300 mm fab utilization rates at some large foundries have triggered their willingness to run more 0.18-micron wafers in the 300 mm fabs.
"On a quarterly basis, foundry revenue changed quarter to quarter in 2015. The normal seasonal pattern of a very strong second quarter was not obvious, while most foundries continued to revise their business outlook during each quarter's earnings release," said Mr. Wang. "The peak inventory level for the semiconductor industry continued to push out during 2015, from the second quarter to the third quarter, and through the rest of the year."