Samsung leapfrogs Intel as world's #1 chipmaker

Samsung leapfrogs Intel as world’s #1 chipmaker

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Ongoing shortages in the semiconductor industry are thought to be the main reason why its revenue jumped by 26.3% to $595 billion in 2021.

Today’s report from Gartner Inc. also reveals the impact of U.S. sanctions on China, which saw its market share fall dramatically and no longer has a single chip manufacturer that ranks in the top 10 list.

The main beneficiary of China’s declining market share appears to be Samsung Electronics Ltd., which surpassed Intel Corp. to become the world’s biggest semiconductor maker in terms of revenue. Its chip business saw sales jump 28% in 2021 compared to a year earlier to $73.2 billion. That puts the company just ahead of Intel, which saw revenue slip by 0.3% to $72.5 billion for the year. In terms of market share, Samsung commands 12.3% of all chip revenues, compared to Intel’s 12.2%.

Computer chipmakers are raking in the profits despite a semiconductor shortage that has been plaguing the world for the best part of three years now. The shortage is unlikely to be abated any time soon either. On a conference call with investors this week, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Chief Executive CC Wei said he believes component shortages will continue for the foreseeable future, with “tight production capacity” across its entire operation.

While the shortages are likely one of the main factors driving price increases, and therefore increased profits, for chipmakers, China has struggled to benefit. As a country, China’s overall share of the computer chip market shrunk from 6.7% to 6.5%, while its biggest chipmaker HiSilicon Technologies Co. Ltd. saw revenue decline by 81% in 2021, compared to a year earlier.

Gartner Research Vice President Andrew Norwood said the blame for this lies squarely at the feet of U.S. sanctions on HiSilicon’s parent company Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

With China’s market share in decline, South Korea enjoyed the largest increase in market share, and now commands 19.3% of all semiconductor revenues.

In terms of market segments, revenue from wireless communications chips rose 24.6% in 2021, while the number of 5G chipsets for handsets manufactured in the last year more than doubled, from 251 million units in 2020 to 556 million units last year. The automotive chip market saw even bigger growth of 34.9%, outperforming all other segments.

The biggest profit driver overall however remains Dynamic Random-Access Memory chips, which saw revenue grow by 33.2% to account for 28% of all semiconductor sales in 2021.

“Memory continued to benefit from the key demand trend in the last couple of years — the shift to home/hybrid working and learning,” Gartner explained. “This trend fueled increased server deployments by hyperscale cloud service providers to satisfy online working and entertainment, as well as a surge in end-market demand for PCs and ultramobiles.”

Main image: ranjatm/pixabay

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