Monday, May 14, 2018
Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), the largest China-based foundry house, will kick off risk production of its 14nm FinFET process and venture into the AI (artificial intelligence) chip sector in the first half of 2019 after entering volume production of 28nm HKC+ process in the second half 2018, according to the firm's co-CEO Liang Mong-song.
Liang said at a recent investor conference that SMIC will see an upper single-digit shipment ratio for 28nm process for the whole 2018, with the volume production of its 28nm HKC process to run close to that of its 28nm Poly-SiON process.
In terms of mature process platforms, Liang highlighted the performance upgrades of power management IC process platform, saying that capacities at all its 8-inch wafer fabs are running tight to meet ever-increasing demand for power management ICs including IGBT devices. He added that the high-voltage BCD (bipolar CMOS DMOS) process will be shifted to 12-inch fabs.
Liang also stressed that SMIC will step up its technological developments, aiming to build a comprehensive process platform integrating technologies, IP and design services. In particular, he disclosed, SMIC will move to develop complete AI-based ASIC IPs in the first half of 2019 to provide customers with total IC design solutions.
On the same occasion, another co-CEO Zhao Haijun said SMIC posted better-than-expected revenue performances, continuous growth in market demand and increased capacity utilization in the first quarter of 2018.
Zhao said SMIC raked in revenues of US$831 million for the quarter, including revenues from photomask production, wafer test and other technology royalty incomes. The quarter's gross profits reached US$220.2 million for a margin rate of 26.5%. The company expected a sequential 7-9% revenue growth for the second quarter of 2018, with gross margin to be in the range of 23-25%.
SMIC has expanded the capacity at its 8-inch fab in Shenzhen to 447,750 wafers in the first quarter of 2018 from 442,750 of a quarter earlier, and the average capacity utilization rate has risen to 88.3%.
SMIC posted R&D expenses and capital expenses at US$123 million and US$322 million, respectively, for the first quarter of 2018.
Zhao also disclosed that SMIC now sees 40% of its revenues from the China market, and is in a good position to benefit from the growing popularity of consumer electronics and IoT devices.
In particular, he stressed, SMIC has led in providing foundry services for makers of power management ICs and image sensing devices, and will enjoy a 30% growth in the NOR/NAND flash foundry business in 2018.
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