300mm wafers set to rise 10% in Q4

Demand outstrips supply

Here's a further sign that the chip business is moving into recovery: prices are going up.

Specifically, the prices of 300mm blank wafers are rising, and are expected to be around ten per cent higher during Q4 than they are now, Taiwanese wafer manufacturers have said, DigiTimes reports.

The rise is all down to demand outstripping supply - an indicator of a growing market. During the downturn, wafer makers cut their output as demand fell. Chip makers now want to buy more wafers than wafer producers can supply, forcing the latter to up prices until they can expand their own capacity to meet today's higher levels of demand.

300mm wafer production capacity, at least in Taiwan, is expected to increase by 50 per cent by the fourth quarter over its level during the first half of the year. That increase is being driven by capacity expansion programmes at the major chip foundries and memory makers, in turn on the back of expanding orders from hardware manufacturers.

It should be noted that not all wafer makers are so enthusiastic. DigiTimes notes that unlike Taiwan's Taisil Electronic Materials and Shin-Etsu Handotai, Japan-based Komatsu Electronic Metals and US-based MEMC are taking a more cautious approach.

In any case, wafer production capacity will likely remain constrained for the rest of the year at least. But the trend does lend weight to the various forecasts that while chip industry growth this year will be shallow, 2004 is going to perform rather better. ®