Leading-edge process demand at UMC has sparked the pure-play foundry to expand capacity at its two 300mm fabs, sparking the need to raise capital expenditure in 2010. Although UMC did not say what its CapEx would be next year, CapEx over the last several years has been at very low levels and is not expected to pass its previously stated plans of US$500 million for 2009. In recent times, UMC reached a peak of spending in 2004 at US$1.5 billion.
UMC also reiterated its capacity and technology upgrades for its second 300mm fab based in Singapore, Fab 12i. UMC is expanding 65/55nm capacity and enabling the fab for 45/40nm production capabilities. This project was said to increase Fab12i's capacity by over 30%.
The reported financial results highlighted strong demand at the foundry with revenue rising 21.1% sequentially to US$853 million. Higher wafer shipments and improved blended ASP, were the main reasons for the increase in revenue. The higher ASP was due to increased wafer production at leading-edge technology node.
UMC said that revenue from 65nm and below increased to 14% of total revenue, compared to 12% in 2Q09, while revenue from 65nm and below grew more than 40% from 2Q09. Stronger demand for leading communication and computing chips was cited for the boost in leading-edge production. UMC also saw revenue from 90nm and below increase to 40% in 3Q09.
The increase in wafer shipments (13.3% increase sequentially) helped take fab utilization rates to 89%, up from 79% in the previous quarter. UMC had previously guided rates would increase to 85%.
"The positive momentum we experienced in Q2 carried over into Q3,” noted Dr. Shih-Wei Sun, CEO of UMC. “Shipments surpassed 1 million wafers, rising to 1,017,000 8-inch equivalent wafers, the second highest number in UMC's history. Utilization rate grew to 89% for the third quarter. Revenue for Q3 was the highest it's been for the past seven quarters, while gross profit margin increased to the highest level in five years. UMC is optimistic about the fourth quarter and expects ASP to rise as our product mix continues to improve.”