Analysis-Global chip shortage threatens production of laptops, smartphones and more

SEOUL/BERLIN/SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Makers of vehicles and digital units from TVs to smartphones are sounding alarm bells a couple of international scarcity of chips, which is inflicting manufacturing delays as shopper demand bounces again from the coronavirus disaster.

FILE PHOTO: A view of the NXP sales space is proven through the 2019 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Picture

The issue has a number of causes, trade executives and analysts say, together with bulk-buying by U.S. sanctions-hit Chinese language tech large Huawei Applied sciences, a fireplace at a chip plant in Japan, coronavirus lockdowns in Southeast Asia, and a strike in France.

Extra basically, nonetheless, there was under-investment in 8-inch chip manufacturing vegetation owned principally by Asian companies, which suggests they’ve struggled to ramp up manufacturing as demand for 5G telephones, laptops and vehicles picked up sooner than anticipated.

“For the entire electronics trade, we’ve been experiencing a scarcity of elements,” mentioned Donny Zhang, CEO of Shenzhen-based sourcing firm Sand and Wave, who mentioned he confronted delays in acquiring a microcontroller unit that was key to a sensible headphone product he was engaged on.

“We had been initially planning to finish manufacturing in a single month, however now it seems like we’ll have to do it in two.”

A supply at a Japanese electronics element provider mentioned it was seeing shortages of WiFi and Bluetooth chips and was anticipating delays of greater than 10 weeks.

The automotive trade in China, which flagged the problem earlier this month, is anticipating manufacturing at some Chinese language carmakers to be affected within the first quarter of subsequent yr, in response to a senior trade affiliation official.


Client demand in China, particularly for vehicles, has snapped again unexpectedly shortly from the coronavirus disaster, and orders for merchandise equivalent to laptops and cellphones in areas nonetheless fighting pandemic restrictions, equivalent to Europe and america, have additionally picked up.

“Since (these merchandise) all compete for a similar fab (fabrication plant) assets the scarcity is throughout all of those sectors and others as properly. These are simply essentially the most obvious proper now,” mentioned Kevin Anderson, a senior analyst at Omdia.

Dutch automotive chip provider NXP Semiconductors has advised prospects it should elevate costs on all merchandise due to a “important enhance” in supplies prices and a “extreme scarcity” of chips, Reuters reported this month.

“Enterprise got here again a lot sooner than we anticipated,” NXP CEO Kurt Sievers advised German enterprise every day Handelsblatt in an interview on Dec. 11. “Many shoppers ordered too late. Because of this, we’re not in a position to sustain in some areas.”

Different short-term triggers for the chip scarcity embrace stockpiling by telecoms large Huawei forward of mid-September when its suppliers needed to adjust to U.S. sanctions, CICC analyst Huang Leping mentioned in a word on Dec. 11.

This was aggravated by Huawei’s rivals equivalent to Xiaomi in search of to realize market share by stepping up orders of elements, he added.

Xiaomi and Huawei declined to remark.

Electronics makers together with Panasonic Corp and Yamaha Corp additionally warn they face some chip shortages which are slowing manufacturing of audio gear and video cameras after an enormous fireplace in October broken a chip plant owned by Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corp (AKM), a unit of Asahi Kasei Corp, in southern Japan.

Considerations have surfaced too over strikes in France at chipmaker STMicroelectronics.

Eric Potard, chief of the CFDT union on the group, mentioned the strike resulted in a fall in exercise of about 8%. STMicro, nonetheless, mentioned it had no affect on manufacturing.


The surge in demand has meant 8-inch vegetation, which are likely to make older, much less refined chips, are underneath pressure, analysts and trade sources mentioned.

Taiwan’s TSMC dominates the marketplace for contract chip manufacturing, with Samsung trailing a distant second, adopted by the likes of SMIC, GlobalFoundries and UMC, in response to Trendforce knowledge.

“The issue appears mainly to be on the foundries,” mentioned a European semiconductor trade supply, who mentioned TSMC and GlobalFoundries particularly underneath stress.

“It seems like they’re just about on the restrict,” the supply mentioned, referring to TSMC.

TSMC, which counts Apple and Qualcomm amongst prospects, declined to remark, however referred to feedback its chairman made this week that described the agency’s capability as “tight”.

A GlobalFoundries spokesman mentioned it was investing in “capability development to fulfill this unprecedented demand”. The agency is at the moment rising its manufacturing ranges and plans to double its yearly common capital expenditure subsequent yr to additional broaden capability, he added.

An official at South Korean foundry agency DB Hitek, which makes chips for the likes of Apple to make use of in its tablets, mentioned its 8-inch vegetation had been working at full capability no less than for the subsequent six months, with tight provide anticipated till the second half of subsequent yr.

The USA has additionally curbed the flexibility of China’s high chipmaker, SMIC, to get U.S.-made gear and uncooked supplies, exacerbating the availability crunch. SMIC didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Foundry companies like DB Hitek, UMC and SMIC mentioned in latest firm statements their factories had been working at full capability within the third quarter.

“We anticipate our utilisation charges to stay strong in the meanwhile,” DB Hitek advised Reuters.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in Seoul, Douglas Busvine in Berlin, David Kirton in Shenzhen, China, Makiko Yamazaki, Maki Shiraki and Noriyuki Hirata in Tokyo, Mathieu Rosemain in Paris, Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Writing by Brenda Goh; Enhancing by Mark Potter