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Mobile DRAM Revenue Drops Slightly in 4Q13, Micron Benefits from Elpida Acquisition

By TrendForce
Published: Feb 20,2014

Figure I: Mobile DRAM Market Share By Region (source: TrendForce)
Figure I: Mobile DRAM Market Share By Region (source: TrendForce)

According to DRAMeXchange, a division of global research firm TrendForce, the mobile memory industry’s worldwide revenue reached US$3.039 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013, bringing the yearly total to US$11.826 billion, representing 34.3% of DRAM industry value. The fire at SK Hynix’s Wuxi fabrication plant did not have a significant affect on mobile DRAM output, market competition brought average selling price down by 10% in the fourth quarter. Thus, despite a 3% QoQ increase in mobile shipments, total mobile memory revenue experienced a 7.8% QoQ decline.

According to TrendForce’s mobile DRAM revenue ranking, the two Korean manufacturers’ combined market share was 74.8%, while Micron came in third with 23% of the market, only 3% behind SK Hynix. Since Micron’s acquisition of Elpida, the manufacturer has been focusing on developing MCP and eMCP products, which will likely increase its mobile memory market share, and allow it to compete with SK Hynix more effectively.

Looking ahead to the first quarter of 2014, a 7.4% QoQ decrease in smartphone shipments is forecast, while tablet sales are expected to be weak as well. However, mobile memory supply is likely to increase by 8.5% QoQ, which would result in a decrease in average selling price, leading to an estimated 5-10% decline in mobile DRAM revenue for the first quarter. As major manufacturers unveil new devices at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) on February 24 and subsequently begin volume production, TrendForce expects mobile memory revenue will grow again in the second quarter.

Global DRAM Makers’ Mobile Memory Market Share Continues to Expand, Smaller Vendors Search for Niche

As mobile DRAM average selling price did not increase in the fourth quarter of 2013, Samsung’s mobile memory market share fell slightly, from 51.3% in the third quarter to 48.9%. The Korean supplier, more concerned about profitability than market share, is focused on technology migration and the manufacture of more profitable products. Samsung has a solid lead on competitors with its process technology and expects to ship 23nm product samples to clients in the beginning of the second quarter. TrendForce expects the supplier’s market share will stay in the 40-50% range. SK Hynix’s market share stayed the same in the 4Q13. The supplier’s LPDDR2 is produced on the 29nm process, while LPDDR3 products are manufactured on 38nm technology. All production is expected to migrate to the 29nm process this year, which will further reduce production costs. Furthermore, as smartphone manufacturers are concerned over component supply from Samsung, SK Hynix’s share of China’s smartphone market continues to expand, closing the gap between it and Samsung.

Figure II
Figure II

Micron’s fourth quarter mobile memory market share was around 23%, nearly the same as the previous quarter’s figure. Its mobile dram revenues are mainly generated from the orders Elpida received from its largest client, Apple. In addition to its smartphone and tablet products, Apple’s MacBook Air also uses LPDDR3, with a much higher content per unit, which will be highly beneficial to the Micron group. Looking long term, Micron and Elpida’s merger will strengthen its mobile memory product portfolio – eMCP production will be an especially important development, and Micron’s mobile memory business is expected to grow by leaps and bounds in 2015.

Taiwanese Mobile Memory Makers Focus on Niche Market with 4G/LTE and eMCP

As volume production has begun for mobile memory products, Nanya’s revenue of this increased by 36.9% in the fourth quarter and market share rose from 0.9% to 1.4%. Currently, Nanya is working with leading module makers on the production of eMCP products, targeting China’s market. Shipments are steady and the supplier may expand capacity again this year, possibly from the present 10% to over 20%. Nanya is mainly producing LPDDR2, with LPDDR3 currently in the testing phase with volume production slated for the second half of 2014.

Winbond’s mobile DRAM revenue increased by 5% QoQ in 4Q13, bringing global market share 0.8%. Mobile memory sales account for 11% of the supplier’s total revenue. Shipments of low to medium-density 4G/LTE baseband chips are steady, and Winbond is working towards higher density mobile DRAM products like LPDDR2 and LPDDR3, with volume production possible in 1H’14. At present, the supplier has outsourced a portion of production to Powerchip. Winbond will continue to expand its 46nm capacity, while not ruling out the possibility of discussing migration to 30nm technology with international suppliers.

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