SEA fab capacity to more than double global growth

Increase of semiconductor fab capacity in Southeast Asia is expected to outpace rest of world with smartphones driving market, say semicon market players.

SINGAPORE--Fab capacity in Southeast Asia is predicted to grow at a year-on-year rate of 11 percent in 2012, outpacing global growth rate of 5 percent, according to SEMI (Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International).

Christian Dieseldorff, SEMI industry research and statistics, added that fab capacity in the region will be driven by foundries and discrete fabs while sharing the figures during a press conference Tuesday for Semicon Singapore 2012. In Southeast Asia, there are 27 companies operating 40 volume fabs, he said.

David Wilhoit, president and CEO of Siltronic Samsung Wafer, who was present at the briefing, explained that the growth in smartphones will be a key driver of fab capacity expansion. Russell Tham, president of Applied Materials Southeast Asia, added that emerging markets will be leading the smartphone adoption.

Dieseldorff also noted that total fab spending in the region will surpass US$2 billion with memory products taking up about US$1.48 billion of spending, followed by discrete fabs at US$250 million while foundries will take up about US$215 million.

LED fab capacity in Southeast Asia is expected to increase by about 90 percent year-on-year in 2012 and 30 percent in 2013, he noted. Globally, the number of LED-dedicated fabs is also expected to jump from 64 fabs in 2006 to about 164 fabs in 2012, he added.

In the region, spending on backend equipment will reach about US$1.35 billion while packaging materials spending is expected to hit US$6.6 billion in 2012.

Talent crunch in Singapore
Unlike other countries, the Singapore semiconductor market has to compete more intensely with other industries for talent in the workforce as the city-state is much smaller, said Tham.

Wilhoit noted that while the semiconductor market was "perceived" as less "flashy" than other industries, the products from the market were embedded in every communication device and were very relevant to everyday life.

The semiconductor industry is also an exciting market for employees who are looking for challenges in their jobs. Rodney Morgan, executive officer at IM Flash Technologies, added: "I challenge anybody to find an industry that moves as fast as the semiconductor market."