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European Chipmakers Lose Ground To Japanese Rivals

The first quarter of this year was not a happy time for European semiconductor firms, according to the latest research from iSuppli Corp.
LONDON — Europe's Infineon Technologies AG, STMicroelectronics NV and Philips Semiconductors lost ground in the semiconductor market in the first quarter of 2005 in counterpoint to the success of Japanese rivals Renesas Technology Corp. and Toshiba Corp., according to figures from market research company iSuppli Corp. (See rankings table below)

The overall market registered $56.99 billion in the first quarter, 3.1 percent down on the $58.79 billion chip sales iSuppli estimated for the fourth quarter of 2004. This is inline with the historical trend that the first quarter of the year is weak for the global semiconductor industry.

However, semiconductor revenue at Renesas rose 10.0 percent to $2.47 billion balancing a 10.8 percent drop at Infineon to $2.10 billion and a 10.5 percent drop to $ 2.08 billion in revenue at ST. Toshiba's sales rose 8.6 percent to $2.26 billion which was reciprocated in a 9.1 percent fall in chip sales at Philips Semiconductors to $1.33 billion.

As a result, Infineon lost two ranking places to sixth, ST lost two places to rank seventh and Philips swapped the ninth spot for the number ten spot with Freescale Semiconductor Inc. Renesas jumped two places to rank as the world's third largest semiconductor company and Toshiba jumped from seventh to fifth.

No reasoning was given for Europe's poor performance, by iSuppli, although the relative strength of the euro in a dollar-denominated industry will have played a part.

Renesas' and Toshiba's revenue increases were driven to a large degree by rising sales of ASICs and ASSPs, iSuppli said. Renesas' combined ASIC/ASSP revenues rose by $65 million, or 10.6 percent, in the first quarter compared to the fourth. Toshiba's combined ASIC/ASSP revenues rose by $73 million, or 23.2 percent, sequentially, the market watcher added. Both companies distinguished themselves with strong growth in sales of consumer-electronics-oriented semiconductors. Renesas' sales to this area grew by $41 million, while Toshiba's soared by $140 million. Data processing was another area of strong sales growth for the two firms, iSuppli added.

The top two semiconductor suppliers, Intel Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., maintained their positions with growth that slightly exceeded the industry average. Revenue at U.S. microprocessor giant Intel declined to $8.68 billion in the first quarter, down 2.7 percent from $8.92 billion in the fourth quarter. South Korea's Samsung posted semiconductor revenue of $4.19 billion, down a mild 1.3 percent from $4.24 billion in the fourth quarter.

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