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IC, component shortage likely to last through 2010

Fears of a double-dip recession are keeping suppliers from boosting output significantly to meet growing demand. Hoarding and speculation exacerbate the deficit.

The shortage of ICs and components is slowing production and raising costs at China factories. Delivery schedules to finished product companies have been pushed back six to 10 weeks, while quotes have increased by an average 10 percent. Some ICs have even become six times more expensive. The situation, however, is not likely to be resolved soon.

IC, component shortage likely to last through 2010
Haimen Sancon Jetwell has raised quotes for its capacitors in response to higher spot prices, which have increased almost 15 percent since H1 2010.

Uncertainty in the global economic climate is leading many suppliers in China and overseas to be cautious about expansion plans. Although demand has picked up, concern over the EU debt crisis has companies questioning the feasibility of bringing all lines back to production. Should the situation in the EU worsen and affect worldwide financial markets, orders will fall once again and manufacturers may find themselves in a far worse position than at the height of the downturn.

Back then, factories could not simply reduce output in line with declining demand. This is because IC production equipment needs the same amount of deionized water, highly purified gases and electricity regardless of whether it runs at full capacity or not. To be able to really save on costs, companies would have to close or sell their plants, which is what many suppliers did in late 2008.

Manufacturers did not expect global economies to rebound as fast as they did, however, and were not able to recover capacity quickly enough. Those that sold off assets have to invest in new equipment, a step that requires both time and significant funding. Machinery companies normally produce units only on request. This is because the technology advances quickly rendering equipment outdated. It usually takes at least six months before new units can be delivered, sometimes even more than one year.

Suppliers that shuttered factories will have to recalibrate the machines. They also need to purchase chemicals and highly purified gases, which take several months to produce.

The first signs of a shortage in ICs and components came about in H1 2009. The problem gained pace in the second half and escalated further in 2010. If factories remain unwilling to boost output significantly and soon, the deficit can extend through the rest of the year.

At present, suppliers are bringing into operation only a few production lines at a time, waiting until they enter the lean period to boost their IC stockpile in time for the buying season in 2011.

Hoarding squeezes supply further

Finished product makers, especially large companies that source ICs and components in bulk, are contributing to the shortage. Manufacturers such as those offering terminals often stock up on key parts to minimize the impact of the deficit on their lead times. During procurement, many order 30 to 200 percent more than what they need and require deliveries to arrive a lot earlier than necessary. This practice is exacerbating the supply-demand situation so much that in June, discretes had a lead time of 20 weeks, up from the typical 10 to 12 weeks.

In the same month, delivery for standard logic ICs took 18 weeks, while that for analog ICs reached 14 weeks. At six weeks, the shortest lead time was for memory ICs. Apart from these, amplifiers, comparators, interface ICs, voltage regulators, CMOS, BiCMOS, power MOSFET, rectifiers and nearly all types of electronic components from TI, NXP, ROHM, STMicroelectronics, ON, Toshiba and Samsung are in scant supply.

Larger enterprises such as computer manufacturers Founder Technology Group Corp. and Shenzhen Hasee Computer Co. Ltd have an efficient monitoring system in place for tracking weekly material procurements, and forecasting component supply and demand at their factories. Other businesses have partnerships with IC and component suppliers, enabling convenient access to key parts. Shenzhen Starworth Mfg Co. Ltd, for instance, works with Taiwan's RDC and now has a steady source of CPUs and related chipsets for its basic netbooks.

Since March, when the HCS EC price index from the Shenzhen Huaqiangbei Electronics Market fell to its lowest point after Q4 2008, quotes have increased 19 percent to 108.27. The current level is also 12 to 15 percent higher than composite EC prices before the global economic downturn.

Speculation in the domestic components market

As with international IC providers, local component suppliers reduced capacity at the height of the downturn and are now struggling to boost capacity. Compared with the $50 million to $4 billion funding required to operate new IC plants, the investment for component factories is much lower.

Primarily because of the relatively insignificant threshold, several players are speculating on key components such as resistors, capacitors and memory ICs. It is said that for some categories, only 100 million yuan $14.7 million is needed to hold the majority of component supply and gain control over market prices.

As a result of various speculation activities, the cost of capacitors has increased 50 percent since April 2010. Haimen Sancon Jetwell Electronics Co. Ltd said spot prices have risen 7 to 15 percent since H1 2010, and has adjusted quotes for its capacitors accordingly.


Note: This article "IC, component shortage likely to last through 2010" was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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