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Chip biz breaks quarterly fab spend record

Will 2004 see more spent on fabs than 2000's total?

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Chip vendors are banking on the recovery in the world semiconductor market - literally. During Q2 2004, the industry invested a record $18.4bn in new plant, market watcher Strategic Marketing Associates (SMA) said yesterday.

Construction commenced on some 15 fabs in Q2, mainly in Japan, South Korea, the US and Ireland.

Around 46 per cent of the total - $8.4bn - is being invested in Japan as Elpida, Fujitsu, Matsushita, NEC and Toshiba put spade to earth for their 300mm wafer fab facilities. Samsung began work on three plants in South Korea, together totalling $3.4bn of investment, while Intel launched a $2.25bn building programme that will see the expansion of fabs in the US and at its Leixlip, Ireland facility, which is being upgraded to 90nm.

Together, these and other fabs on which work began in Q2 will yield some 500,000 wafer starts a month upon completion and the commencement of volume output.

That, says SMA, is the same capacity that all of 2003's new fabs are planned to provide. Indeed, the $25bn invested in new plant during Q1 and Q2 2004 is more than that invested in the whole of 2003.

The most the semiconductor industry has invested in a single year is the $38bn it spent in 2000. SMA wasn't willing to hazard a guess as to whether 2004 will exceed that record figure.

Construction spending started to ramp in Q4 2003 and since then $35bn has been invested in new plant. That's still some way from the 1991-2001 total of $58bn, but this time round the investment ramp rate is much higher. ®

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