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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Taiwan's IT sector appeared to have escaped relatively unscathed on Monday, after a massive earthquake rocked the country over the weekend.

But some effect on component supplies is expected, as manufacturers check their production lines in the wake of the quake. Even before the earthquake, there had been been complaints from system vendors about short supplies of some components.

The earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the richter scale, hit the country on Saturday afternoon. TV footage showed shoppers crouching in fear as department stores shuddered, and cranes crashing from the top of a Taipei skyscraper. By Monday, it appeared there had been five fatalities, all of which seem to be related to the crane crash. Significant after shocks continued to hit the country into Monday.

However, the Taiwanese government, in an initial statement on Saturday night, said that while the quake caused damage in some areas, over all the damage was minor, "and has not affected local industries and economic activities."

The government added that computer centers and information systems for financial activities had not been affected, and that financial markets would operate as normal.

On Monday, both Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and United Microelectronics Corporation said their operations had escaped unscathed. TSMC said its fabs had resumed normal production on Monday after an equipment check. UMC said "a very minimal amount of equipment was slightly affected," but its engineering team was working hard to "speed the full recovery".

Asian IT news service Digitimes reported that other manufacturers were apparently checking equipment, and anticipated a speedy return to production. It reported that a number of flat panel makers claimed their facilities escaped with minimal damage.

However, even a short stoppage could have an effect on supply and pricing, and Digitimes said observers were bracing for at least a short term increase in DRAM prices, even if only for psychological reasons.

PC vendors have commented recently that many components are in tight supply and prices have been going up. Apple Computer recently blamed shortages of flat panels and rising DRAM prices for a $100 increase in the price of its iMac.

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