Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WaferNEWS Watch: Recap of Barclays' conf: Semicap outlook brightening for 2011

On the heels of Credit Suisse's gathering of semicap presenters, Barclays had its own Capital Tech Conference, where many of the same themes were reiterated. Key takeaways, as reported by CJ Muse:

  • Orders for 4Q are looking flat to up 5%, with no pushouts ("some have reversed themselves," he writes).

  • 2011 capex now looks "closer to flat" with 2009, vs. expectations of around -10%. "Most equipment vendors" are now on this bandwagon, Muse says. Lithography is more bullish than that (see the next point), while SoC test should see a trough in demand in 1Q11 (see the point after). Other areas to look at for 2011: foundry and NAND should spend strongly (main beneficiaries: LRCX and VSEA, also KLAC).

  • There's a gold rush in litho systems, Muse notes, as Tier 1 firms (e.g. Samsung, TSMC) race to add capacity by 1H11 and Tier 2 suppliers scramble to get their hands on immersion tools so they're not left in the dust. "Reluctance by nearly all semi players to push out immersion tools provides strong visibility to above-industry growth in 2011, and early adoption of premium-priced EUV systems contributes to 2012 strength," Muse writes. Overall immersion shipments could exceed 120 units in 2011, he says, with ASML likely further widening the gap between it and Nikon. And Cymer's looking at Y/Y unit growth in 2011 for both immersion and KrF light sources.

  • More specific frontend semicap insights: VSEA sees 1H11 tracking similar to 2H10 and NAND boosting 2H11 prospects, while its solar unit is on pace to exceed sales targets for both 2011 ($25M-$35M) and 2012 (>$100M); AMAT is tracking 17 fab projects in 2011; KLAC sees foundry spending and NAND spending in 2011; MKSI is leaning toward a flattish environment (likely driven by "bulky solar order[s]," Muse notes);

  • The market for SoC test tools, currently going through a 1-2 quarter digestion period, should hit a trough in 1Q11 "with a gradual recovery thereafter," Muse writes. (Huse also updates his take on the Verigy-LTX/Credence-Advantest M&A soap opera currently playing out -- suggesting that Advantest's offer really is the better one now, citing fair valuation ($11-$15/share, possibly increased to $15-$18), ballpark comps (closer to 2.0× EV/LTM sales), a stronger Yen for leverage, and ATE's desperation to add VRGY's high-end digital SOC capabilities. Even so, he still sees TER as the top dog in test, if only as a beneficiary of all the sector consolidation & uncertainty.)

  • Elsewhere in the backend, Amkor sees 4Q about at guidance (-5% to -10% q/q) and 1Q11 with typical seasonality (also -5% to -10%), but then growth resuming. Management emphasized growing copper capabilities. And Formfactor now has "some elements of a turnaround in place" -- including trimming its board of directors -- but uncertainties remain," Muse cautions.

  • In subsystems, AEIS and BRKS are helped by diversification: AEIS into PV inverters, and BRKS in other non-semi sources (to the tune of "at least $40M in revenue").

  • Key MOCVD equipment suppliers Aixtron and Veeco see no signs of slowing in either subsidies or tool orders form China; instead they emphasized "solid visibility to revenue momentum in 1H11," with new tools and an environment where lots of smaller players are driving spending with single-digit orders (translation: market gains at individual customers are hard to track).

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