© yury asotov Components | March 04, 2013

Contract market momentum continues throughout February

According to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce, pricing momentum for the February contract market has been as strong as it was during January – DDR3 4GB Module Prices Grew 11%.
DDR3 1600Mhz 4GB module prices grew by approximately 11%, approaching $19.75 USD on average and reaching up to as high as $20 USD. Prices for DDR3 2GB modules, similarly, rose by nearly 13% MoM and surpassed the $11 USD threshold. In the spot market, prices showed similar movements to the contract prices: Given the DRAM manufacturers’ reduced supplies and increased focus on the contract market, the prices for DDR3 1600Mhz 2Gb saw an increase of 8%, climbing from $1.26USD in January to approximately $1.36USD this month. It appears likely that the strong pricing uptrend will persist for both spot and contract market.

Observing from the market perspective, DRAM manufacturers are sticking to the original plan of gradually reducing PC DRAM and allocating capacity towards the more profitable mobile and server DRAMs. Even if PC shipments end up being weaker than it was last year and average content per unit growth shows very little noticeable growth, PC OEMs are still concerned over a potential PC DRAM shortage, and have taken the rare effort to increase inventory during the off-peak season. These said manufacturers are currently more tolerant towards the contract prices, given their plans to ensure a stable supply for the peak quarters. According to TrendForce, with the firm establishment of the pricing uptrend, there is hope that DDR3 4GB prices will reach $25 USD during 2H13. Korean DRAM manufacturers are currently on their way to becoming the first to improve PC DRAM’s overall profitability.

Intended P3 Transaction from GlobalFoundries Officially Cancelled following Absence of Payment, Future Prospects of DRAM Market Impacted

Because of the lack of payment from GlobalFoundries during the February 28 deadline, Powerchip will now pursue a different buyer for the equipments at its P3 Fab. As indicated earlier by DRAMeXchange, when Powerchip purchased P3 from Macronix for $5.3B NTD during 2006, it began to use the 90nm manufacturing process and gradually transformed the plant into a major DRAM production facility. As time passed, the company went on to buy three immersion scanners, upgraded to the 30nm technology, and expanded its capacity to around 45K. One possible reason GlobalFoundries eventually opted out of the P3 transaction is that most of the plant’s equipment had been intended for PC DRAM production, which is different from the types of product GlobalFoundries has been known to produce.

In the short term, the continued production of PC DRAM may be the most appropriate way to utilize Powerchip’s P3 fab. This option makes sense given the recent revival of PC DRAM prices (evidenced by the more than 60% growth observed in the 2Gb prices back in November, which grew from $US 0.86 USD to $US 1.4), and the tightening of overall DRAM supply following the persistent lowering of PC DRAM production by global brands.

Following the canceled transaction from GlobalFoundries, there’d also been news that Powerchip is negotiating with first tiered module manufacturers concerning its foundry business. With global manufacturers beginning to decrease overall PC DRAM production, TrendForce’s initial prediction has been that a shortage is likely to occur in the second half of 2013. Even if Powerchip were to re-start production and ease the market shortage situation, the company’s limited capacity (approximately 45K per month) is unlikely to affect the original prediction that PC DRAM prices will gradually return to a break-even point.
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