Singapore based foundry Chartered Semiconductor said that overall fab utilisation rates plummeted to only 38% in the first quarter of 2009, compared to 86% in the year-ago quarter, and 59% in fourth quarter 2008. However, the bottom may have been marked as the foundry expects a significant increase in wafer shipments starting in the second quarter, pushing fab utilisation rates up by approximately 20%. Chartered had also previously guided utilisation rates of only 34% for the first quarter.
“As we go into the second quarter, we are seeing a significant increase in orders from our customers with the bulk of the increase coming from our leading-edge 65nm technology node followed by 0.11 and 0.18-micron nodes,” commented George Thomas, CFO of Chartered Semiconductor in a statement. “We believe this is mainly driven by introduction of new products by our customers and to lesser extent, inventory re-stocking. Based on our current outlook, we expect total business base shipments to increase approximately 52 percent and result in an approximately 20 percentage point improvement in utilization compared to the previous quarter. This translates to sequential revenue growth of approximately 36 percent including our share of SMP. In line with the strength we are seeing at the leading-edge technologies, we expect revenues from 65nm and below technologies to increase approximately 72 percent sequentially and represent approximately 30 percent of our total business base revenues in the second quarter,” noted Thomas.
Chartered Semiconductor also noted that revenue from 45nm technology had now been reported for the first time, generating 3% of total revenue in the first quarter. 65nm technology generated 21% of revenue in the quarter, down from 23% in 4Q08.
“As we look forward, we believe our current technology position as well as our roadmap, including the high-k metal-gate based 28nm offering that has already built up significant customer excitement, will support us in delivering significant value to customers as they launch new products that require high performance and energy-efficient characteristics,” commented Chia Song Hwee, President & CEO of Chartered.
With and expected increase in wafer starts for 65nm and 45nm in the second quarter, Chartered expects wafer capacity at Fab7, its 300mm fab to increase slightly from the first quarter, reaching 24,281wspm compared to 23,985wspm. However, this remains below 3Q08 wafer starts of 24,503wspm.