Korean, US, and Japanese memory semiconductor manufacturers are regrouping themselves to enter another war.
The Korean companies dominating the global market are continuing to shore up their competitiveness while Micron completed the acquisition of Elpida on July 31 to catch up with Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix. Toshiba, ranking second in the NAND flash industry, has secured cash by selling the post-processing lines in Malaysia and is sharpening its competitive edge in the pre-processing part, too.
According to foreign news reports, Toshiba is going to announce its business plans for the latter half of this year on August 7 in Tokyo. The plan is expected to revolve around the sale of non-key assets and concentration on its main businesses including NAND flash memory production.
The Japanese company sold its shares in Toshiba Semiconductor Wuxi to ASE Assembly & Test in Taiwan in May of this year, and 100% of its shares in Toshiba Electronics Malaysia to Amkor Technology late last month. At the same time, it is increasing its investment in NAND flash manufacturing. It announced a month ago that it would invest 30 billion yen in the construction of facilities for new Fab 5 assembly lines. Though the company is refraining from mentioning the details, experts are predicting that it would invest a total of 400 billion yen with SanDisk.
“We will start the construction of the assembly lines in Yokkaichi from late August this year and the work is scheduled to be completed next summer,” the company said, adding, “Detailed plans regarding the introduction of facilities, date of initial production, capacity, and the like will be dependent on market situations.” The remark implies that it is ready to make an investment whenever market conditions get better. Toshiba and SanDisk have already worked together with each other on Fab 3 and Fab 4, and thus it is highly likely that they will continue their partnership at this time.
In the first quarter of 2013, Samsung Electronics led the global NAND flash market with a market share of 38.5%, and Toshiba followed it at a margin of 6.1 percentage points. The runner up’s aggressive investment plan is regarded as an attempt to overtake the market leader and leave its rivals like Micron and SK Hynix further behind.
Micron, which is vying with SK Hynix for the second spot in the global DRAM market, has wrapped up the acquisition of Elpida in 17 months and is going to hold a briefing session on August 9. The US company is striving to increase its presence in the DRAM market by taking advantage of the acquisition.
According to market research firm iSuppli, Samsung Electronics accounted for 36.4% of the DRAM market in Q1, followed by SK Hynix (25.7%), Elpida (15.1%), and Micron (14.0%). The combined market share of Micron and Elpida reaches 29.1%, 3.4 percentage points higher than that of SK Hynix. Elpida filed for bankruptcy back in February this year and has been unable to make aggressive investment since then. However, it is planning to invest 10 billion yen in its Hiroshima plant sooner or later to make up for the delay and keep up with its competitors.
In the meantime, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix are expected to invest approximately 13 trillion won and three trillion won in their semiconductor business this year, respectively.