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Gartner Dataquest, IC Insights forecasts have curious meeting point

10 July 2008 | By Tom Cheyney | Chip Shots

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Two of the leading semiconductor industry market research groups have issued new reports, and the numbers are going in opposite directions. But a certain dollar amount from the dissimilar forecasts shows up on both.

Gartner Dataquest's revised semiconductor equipment forecast sees chipmaker capital spending sliding 22.4% in 2008, a downward revision from its previous prognostication of -19.8%. IC Insights' latest look at chipmaker (IDM, foundry, and fabless) research/development/engineering expenditures posits an 8% pop this year versus last, a bit below the 12.7% compound annual growth rate average for RD&E over the past 18 years or so.

What are the dollar amounts for those particular DQ and ICI 2008 forecasts? $49.2 billion... and $49.2 billion! And ICI's own capex number--$49.7 billion--is only slightly more than its erstwhile competitor's.

Have the two spending categories ever exchanged glances in the night like this before? What does it mean when capex and RD&E account for the same percentage of chip sales revenue?

In capex's case, that sinking feeling does not bode well, as ICI points out in their own report on that sector. This year's expected ratio of capex to sales--about 17.8%--hasn't been this low at any point over the past 30 years. Ever. It sets up what ICI calls a "collision course" of supply (tight), demand (growing), and average selling price (volatile) trends.

Just for the record, what was the RD&E ratio to chip sales in 2007, according to ICI? 17.9%.

Somewhere the number-cruncher gods must be smiling--even if many in the chip-manufacturing community remain glum.

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Gartner ups 2008 semiconductor forecast; lowers growth to 0.4% in 2011 - 02 June 2008

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