Thursday, March 29, 2012

Semiconductor and display fab trends gleaned from AMAT's Analyst Day

Applied Materials Inc. (AMAT) is the leading supplier of semiconductor fabrication
fab equipment to the global semiconductor industry. After Applied Materials' (AMAT) Analyst Day this week, Citi, Barclays Capital, and Credit Suisse share their bullet-point takeaways about the semiconductor and related manufacturing industries, gleaned from Applied's presentations:

There are several positive trends in semiconductors, Barclays notes: increasing
process steps in the move to 2Xnm/1Xnm nodes, the move to 3D NAND, and a sustainable wafer fab equipment (WFE) spend. AMAT believes the macro environment for WFE spending is still very strong and expects this year to be the third year of $30+B in WFE spending, Barclays reports.

On the mobility front, AMAT sees a combination of strong consumer pull, silicon functionality, and process complexity driving a sustained wafer cycle, with potential for foundry capacity additions of over 1 million wspm from 2012-2014.

In the displays fab sector, a mix shift to metal oxide and low temperature polysilicon [LTPS] capacity is intensifying capital expenditures, although the display industry as a whole is dampened by low utilization rates and dropping panel costs.

Investment into large sized a-Si LCD capacity has almost come to a standstill, Barclays reports. The industry is shifting from LCD to organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays, Citi says. But expect recovery in large-sized panel capacity spending -- AMAT estimates another ~13 new Gen 8.5 fabs will be required between now and 2015 to meet end demand -- as well as a continued ramp in high resolution small/medium sized capacity and touch panel capacity for mobile displays.

Applied Materials highlighted 3 "megatrends" for the coming years:
1. The ramp in mobility devices, which is driving increased demand for high performance and high efficiency chips, increased use of Flash memory, and growing penetration of high-resolution touch displays.
2. The growth of emerging end-markets, which is elevating the purchasing power of ~1B new consumers.
3. A continued focus on clean energy, which is fueling the cost per Watt declines in solar and growing solar installations.

Applied Global Services (AGS) sector notes a trend of declining 200mm demand and utilizations offset by stronger wafer starts.

On the packaging side, AMAT noted that copper interconnect is becoming the de-facto standard in the back-end of the line (BEOL) process, for chip-level interconnect.

On the light-emitting diode (LED) side, Applied Materials de-emphasized comments on metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD), an important tool in LED manufacturing, Credit Suisse notes.

Applied Materials also noted that it has increased its R&D spending for new technologies such as 450mm wafer processing, Citi points out.

And Applied Materials, as well as most other semiconductor manufacturing equipment providers, is adjusting its business model as its customer base consolidates.

You can also check out the previews for AMAT's Analyst Day here, or check out the reports from last year's Analyst Day here.

-- Meredith Courtemanche, digital media editor,

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