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Taiwan quake sees DRAM prices rise

Panic buying likely to cause shortages in supply as industry does its best to carry on

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Memory prices went up by more than five per cent last night as news of the Taiwan earthquake broke. The price hikes have been labelled by some as callous profiting in the wake of human suffering, while others point to market uncertainties as the cause of the increase. Initial feedback on the impact of yesterday's earthquake on the Taiwanese IT industry suggests that the sector will suffer little more than a minor set-back. Alan Stanley, general manager of memory distributor Dane-Elec, played down the damage done by the quake. "I don't think it will do a lot of harm in the final analysis; we're talking about a three or four day delay in the DRAM market. I've spoken to most of the manufacturers out there and they all seem to be OK." Concern among the UK channel today was centred around the way in which the market will react to a set of perceived problems. A representative of Carrera said it was too early to say what would happen, but confirmed that memory prices went up by about five per cent over night. He said he expected prices to go up further and for there to be memory shortages as a result of the earthquake, but largely because people have been panic buying and not because of any genuine problems in the supply chain. "People don't know what to do - do you hold off or do you buy? In the past, any natural disaster in the Far East has always put prices up," he said. He said a lot of the price activity was the result of scaremongering - which is what everyone seems to be afraid of. Dabs Direct confirmed that it had increased the prices of its memory modules this morning. The company's general manager, Dave Atherton, said it was playing the DRAM futures market and that this was common practice for most companies dealing in memory. Big name companies with operations in both the UK and Taiwan were generally unharmed. Systems builder Tiny has outlets in Taiwan, as well as in Hong Kong and in mainland China. Sources close to the company's affairs send the Tiny stores in Taiwan were thought to be undamaged. Acer issued a statement late this afternoon confirming that while some of its facilities on the island had been damaged, this damage was fairly minor and only took a few hours to remedy. And Intel's Taiwan office was open today, according to an Intel representative. Some concerns had been raised that the Taiwanese motherboard industry would be harder hit than the DRAM market. Luke Ireland, a director of Evesham Micros, said he had information to the contrary. He said that he had been told that most major roads and modern factories were unaffected by the earthquake and that a shipment he was expecting to be flown in from Taiwan was not subject to any delays. Like many others who spoke to The Register today, Ireland said the biggest potential threat to the industry would be the degree of uncertainty and doubt that had been caused by the earthquake. While the harm done to the IT industry may run into millions of dollars, it should not be forgotten that there were many human casualties in yesterday's earthquake. As this story went to press, the death toll had been confirmed at more than 1,700, with a further 4,000 injured. ® See also Korean stocks soar on Taiwan disaster DRAM price hikes to propel Samsung profit past $2bn

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