TAIWAN: According to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce, mainstream contract price was mostly flat in 1HMar., with some average contract prices showing a slight decrease. Impacted by the quarter-end effect for US manufacturers, 2HFeb. average contract price fell by approximately 5-10 percent compared to 1HFeb.
Although the quarter-end effect has passed, market demand was weak in 1HMar., resulting in relatively high stock levels for memory card and UFD clients. With little sign of demand recovery in the near future, purchasing momentum is weak and few deals have gone through, causing the generally flat contract price trend for 1HMar. TrendForce indicates, as most contract deals will be conducted in 2HMar., the price trend will be clearer in the second half of the month.
As for the end of March and the rest of 2Q, TrendForce believes the main factors that will affect the NAND Flash market will stem from demand changes:
1. As retail sales were weaker than expected during the Chinese New Year holiday, a portion of leading memory card and UFD vendors adopted more conservative price cut strategies to stimulate demand in the off-peak sales season. The retail memory card and UFD markets remain sluggish, reflecting the effect of the weak sales season on digital cameras and consumer electronics. Furthermore, Intel’s postponed release of next-generation processor Ivy Bridge delays demand stimulation from USB 3.0, which is natively supported by the new platform. Therefore, memory card and UFD shipments will see slow growth in the short term, and promotional sales strategies will play an important role in the stimulation of purchasing momentum.
2. As for system product demand, the 2012 Mobile World Congress saw the unveiling of the new iPad, as well as other new smartphone and tablet models with high-performance processors and upgraded hardware specifications. Most of the next-generation products are expected to hit the market in March or April, which will benefit NAND Flash demand. Furthermore, Intel’s delayed release of the Ivy Bridge processor pushes back the introduction of a portion of new Ultrabook models. As smartphone retail sales are not expected to pick up until 3Q, system products will provided limited benefit to NAND Flash demand in the near future.
As for the supply side, major NAND Flash suppliers have adopted more moderate wafer expansion plans due to conservative economic outlook. Additionally, yield rate on the 20nm process, which entered mass production in 4Q11, has not improved. Therefore, output increases will be limited. However, the output ratio is expected to begin climbing in 2Q, as the 20nm yield rate is gradually raised. Meanwhile, 20nm-class eMMC and SSD products will begin hitting the market in 2Q – the system product shipments will benefit demand. TrendForce continues to hold a conservative view of the NAND Flash market in the short term, and expects the gradually declining mainstream NAND Flash contract price trend will not change anytime soon.