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Chip makers boost equipment spending

TSMC alone raising capex to $2bn

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Chip makers' investment in new equipment will hit $43 billion this year - a jump of 41 per cent over 2003's capital spending levels, market research company Strategic Marketing Associates (SMA) has forecast.

The predication came a day before TSMC, the world's largest chip foundry, announced plans to boost its capex to $2 billion, up 80 per cent on its 2003 equipment budget.

SMA bases its calculation on manufacturers' plans for 300mm wafer fabs, driven by strengthening sales and growing capacity utilisation. Memory makers in particular are aggressively pursuing 300mm roll-outs.

The researcher noted that at least 40 projects centring either on new fabs or upgrading older ones will kick off this year. Around 17 new fabs will go into production this year, too.

Much of this activity is centred on the Far East, said SMA. "Asia Pacific now accounts for more than 40 percent of all capital spending," said SMA president George Burns, in a statement. "That's where the foundries are. From now on, Asia Pacific is going to be the leader. Not only in terms of spending, but also where the fabs will be built."

SMA reckons US companies will increase their capex by six per cent to $9.9 billion this year, giving them a 23 per cent share of the total 2004 chip making equipment spend. Last year, their share totalled 30 per cent.

By contrast, Japanese firms will account for 25 per cent of the total - making them the together the biggest spender.

TSMC's capex will be used to boost 300mm capacity by 130 per cent, the company said today.

The company's lines ran at over 100 per cent utilisation last quarter, it said, boosting its revenue 25 per cent over Q4 2002 to $5.8 billion. Quarterly profits were up 119 per cent year on year to $1.37 billion. ®

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