Monday, May 14, 2018
Thanks to strong rush orders from China smartphone makers, Taiwan-based suppliers of LCD driver ICs are all optimistic about revenue growths in the second quarter of 2018, but their actual performances may hinge largely on whether they can get sufficient foundry support amid the increasingly tight capacity at 8-inch wafer fabs in Taiwan and China, according to industry sources.
In April, Taiwan's LCD driver IC makers already posted mixed revenue performances. Top maker Novatek Microelectronics, for instance, saw its April revenues surge 10% on month to NT$4.17 billion (US$140.18 million). But the April revenues of FocalTech Systems plunged 25% on month to NT$865 million on the lack of sufficient wafer foundry capacity to support its shipments, the sources said.
While Novatek is likely to embrace a sequential revenue increase of 20% in the second quarter, FocalTech and other smaller players including Sitronix Technology, UltraChip, Himax Technologies, and Ilitek are expected to see their revenues grow only 10%. A major factor behind the performance difference rests with their grips on 8-inch wafer capacities, the sources indicated.
In fact, 8-inch wafer fabs in Taiwan and China have been running at full capacities to fabricate MCUs and IoT chips that see explosive demand, with MCU makers even predicting tight capacity at such fabs to linger for at least three more years.
LCD driver IC vendors can hardly compete with makers of MCUs and other analog ICs in winning foundry capacity support from 8-inch fabs, as foundry services to the latter can bring 20-30% more profits than to the former, the sources commented.
But for LCD driver IC makers maintaining good business ties with foundry houses and boasting certain economies of scale in foundry demand, such as Novatek, it would be easier for them to get support from the houses.
Meanwhile, Novatek has taken the lead to hike its quotes for LCD driver ICs to reflect the increased silicon wafer and foundry costs, and is likely to be the only one to do so in the LCD driver IC supply chains in Taiwan and China, industry sources commented.
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