(Bloomberg) – China’s chip industry is growing faster than anywhere else in the world, following US sanctions against local champions from Huawei Technologies Co. to Hikvision spurred the appetite for home-grown components.
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Nineteen of the world’s 20 fastest growing chip industry companies in the last four quarters come on average from the world’s No. 2 economy, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compared to just 8 at the same time last year. These China-based suppliers of design software, processors and equipment that are essential for chip production, increase revenues several times as much as global leaders Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. or ASML Holding NV.
The overcharged growth underscores how the tensions between Washington and Beijing are transforming the global $ 550 billion semiconductor industry ̵[ads1]1; a sector that plays a key role in everything from defense to the emergence of future technologies such as AI and autonomous vehicles. In 2020, the United States began restricting sales of U.S. technology to companies such as Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. and Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co., to restrain their growth – but also promote a boom in Chinese chip production and supply.
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While shares in such as Cambricon Technologies Corp. has more than doubled from its lowest level this year, analysts say there may still be room to grow. Beijing is expected to orchestrate billions of dollars in investment in the sector under ambitious programs such as the “Little Giants” plan to support and bankroll national technology masters, and to encourage “buy China” tactics to circumvent US sanctions. The rise of indigenous names has caught the attention of some of the most discerning customers: Apple Inc. was said to be looking at Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. as its latest provider of iPhone flash memory.
“The biggest underlying trend is China’s quest for self-sufficiency in the supply chain, catalyzed by Covid-related shutdowns,” Morningstar analyst Phelix Lee wrote in an email in response to inquiries from Bloomberg News. “In the midst of shutdowns, Chinese customers who mostly use imported semiconductors need to find homemade alternatives to ensure smooth operation.”
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The FactSet China Semiconductor Index, which tracks some of the country’s largest industry players, has risen by about 20% since the end of April, when Covid shutdowns pushed local prices higher. But it is still down by about a third from the top in July 2021.
At the heart of Beijing’s ambitions is the drive to wean itself off a geopolitical rival and import chipsets worth more than $ 430 billion in 2021. Orders for chip production equipment from foreign suppliers increased by 58% last year as local factories expanded capacity. by the industry body Semi show.
It again runs local business. Total sales from Chinese-based chipmakers and designers increased by 18% in 2021 to a record more than 1 trillion yuan ($ 150 billion), according to the China Semiconductor Industry Association.
A persistent chip shortage that limits the production of the world’s largest manufacturers of cars and consumer electronics also works in favor of local chip manufacturers, helping Chinese suppliers to more easily access the international market – sometimes with premiums on the best-selling products, such as auto and pc chips.
SMIC and Hua Hong Semiconductor Ltd., the largest contract chip manufacturers, have kept their Shanghai-based factories in operation at almost full capacity, even though the worst Covid-19 outbreak since 2020 paralyzes factories and logistics across China. With the help of local authorities, cargo flights from Japan delivered essential materials and equipment to tile factories when the city was locked. SMIC recently reported a 67% increase in quarterly sales, surpassing far larger rivals GlobalFoundries Inc. and TSMC.
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Shanghai Fullhan Microelectronics Co.’s revenues increased by 37% on average due to high demand for monitoring products. The video chip designer has promised to expand into electric vehicles and artificial intelligence after winning the “Little Giant” designation. And design tool developer Primarius Technologies Co. doubled sales on average over the past four quarters, and said software has been developed that can be used to make 3-nanometer chips.
Aside from long-term profitability issues, Morningstars Lee said the aggressive capacity building from Chinese players will increase their global presence. It arouses hackles in Washington.
“America is on the verge of losing the token competition,” warned international relations researcher Graham Allison and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in a column in the Wall Street Journal. “If Beijing develops lasting benefits across the semiconductor supply chain, it will generate breakthroughs in basic technologies that the United States cannot match.”
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(Updates with comments from previous Google executives, 6th chip stock)
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