The Strategist

Chipmakers' Spending Spree on R&D Slowed in 2015

01/22/2016 - 14:25

Expenditure on research and development (R&D) in the semiconductor industry in 2015 increased by only 0.5%. The industry shows the weakest increase in cost of new development since 2009, according to IC Insights.
Analysts note that the fixed rate is also significantly below the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in this area over the past 10 years. Last year, it was only 4%. However, since the growth is still present, R&D-expenses of semiconductor companies reached a new high and amounted to $ 56.4 billion last year. Previous record set the year before was $ 54.1 billion.

Past year, there was one deterrent to the growth of R&D spending. This is concern about the global economy, slowdown in sales in the second half of the year and an unprecedented consolidation in the chip industry, which is expressed in a large number of mergers and acquisitions.

Case history

Recently, the American manufacturer of microelectronics Microchip Technology announced purchase of his compatriot Atmel. Thus, Microchip defeated Dialog Semiconductor in the fight for the asset.

Signing the agreement on the deal was announced on Tuesday, 19 January. Microchip will pay for Atmel $ 3,56 Bln. This is less than Dialog’s proposal, but still, the new deal is attractive as it includes a higher proportion of cash payments: $ 7 per share versus $ 4.65 in Dialog’s offer.

Last year was rich in transactions in the semiconductor industry. In October 2015, a manufacturer of chips for aircraft systems and security Skyworks Solutions announced acquisition of PMC-Sierra. The latter specializes in chips for corporate clients. Cost of the transaction amounted to $ 2 billion, funding will be provided through cash and debt.

In early summer, June 2, the US giant Intel acquired the company Altera, specializing in the production of programmable logic arrays (FPGA) used in military equipment, network equipment and industrial electronics. The transaction value was a record for Intel ($ 16,7 billion) and the entire amount will be paid in cash and Intel’s debt.

Intel proceeds to hold first place in spending on research and development. Past year, its share totaled $12.13 billion, or 22% of total R&D-costs in the industry. In second place, with a significant lag, is located Qualcomm, spent for these purposes $ 3.7 billion. Samsung appear next ($ 3,12 billion), followed by Broadcom ($ 2,1 billion) and TSMC ($ 2,07 billion).

In comparison with 2014, the top-five chipmakers leading in R&D-investments has not changed. However, there were several permutations lower on the list. In particular, Micron Technology rose to 6th place having changed places with Toshiba, which fell to 7th place. MediaTek moved from 9th to 8th position, while SK Hynix - from the 12th to 9th. STMicroelectronics slither from 8th place to 10th, and even Nvidia dropped out of the top 10, finishing on 11th place.

According to the latest assessment of analyst firm Gartner in 2016 the volume of investments and the cost of production equipment in the semiconductor industry will shrink by 4.7% compared to 2015 and reach $ 59.4 billion. Previously, experts expect that the costs of the means of production in the chip industry will increase 3.3%.

Earlier this year, Gartner’s experts also released preliminary data on the situation in the semiconductor industry basing on that 2015 revenue in the global chip market declined by almost 2% compared to 2014 and amounted to $ 333.7 billion. Among the main reasons for the decline, experts have called weakening demand for the most important types of electronic equipment, strengthening of the US dollar and higher inventory levels.