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IC Insights Announces Top 25 Fabless

Qualcomm and AMD Lead List of Top 25 Fabless IC Suppliers

IC Insights has released its latest report outlining the top 50 fabless companies with an emphasis on the top 25 companies. Full details are available from the analysis company. The top 25 fabless IC suppliers for 2009 are listed in Figure 1. The numbers are for IC sales only and do not include optoelectronic, sensor, or discrete semiconductor revenues. IC Insights considers a company fabless when it receives the majority of its finished wafer supply from IC foundries. As shown, there were nine fabless IC companies in 2009 that had sales of $1.0 billion or more.

In late 1Q09, AMD became a fabless company by including its Dresden, Germany fabs as part of the GlobalFoundries spin-off. IC Insights has included all of AMDs sales for 2009 in the chart. As shown, AMD now ranks as the second largest fabless IC company in the world behind only Qualcomm. Not including AMD, the top 10 fabless companies sales, in total, declined 4% in 2009 while the remainder of the fabless companies IC sales dropped 13%! Thus, the top 10 share of total fabless company IC sales rose to 65% in 2009, up five points from 2007. As the barriers to entry (i.e., high design costs, increasingly difficult access to venture capital money, etc.) rise, it appears that the fabless IC supplier listing will continue to become more "top-heavy" in the future.

As shown, 17 out of the top 25 fabless IC companies are headquartered in the U.S. Moreover, nine out of the top 10 fabless IC companies in 2009 are based in the U.S. With only one Japanese company in the ranking (MegaChips), it is obvious that the fabless/foundry business model has not significantly caught on in Japan, and, in IC Insights opinion, is unlikely to do so in the near future. However, as Taiwanese and Chinese IC design houses continue to advance, IC Insights expects an increasing number of Taiwan- and China-headquartered companies to eventually make the top-25 fabless supplier ranking.

Cellular phone chip supplier Qualcomm remained the number one fabless IC supplier, registering $6.6 billion in sales in 2009, a 2% increase. The most impressive gain by a large (i.e., greater than $1.0B in sales) fabless IC suppler in 2009 was MediaTek, which registered a strong 22% increase in sales to $3.5 billion.

Although the global recession had a severe negative impact on most fabless IC suppliers, many of the Taiwanese fabless companies staged a strong comeback in the second half of 2009. As shown, four of the five top-25 fabless IC suppliers that registered a double-digit increase in sales in 2009 were headquartered in Taiwan. In contrast, eight of the 11 top-25 companies that registered a double-digit decline in sales in 2009 were U.S.-based.

 Given the big disparity in the 1999-2009 IC sales CAGRs between the fabless IC suppliers (15%) and the IDMs (2%), it comes as little surprise that fabless IC companies have been steadily increasing their share of the total IC market. In 1999, fabless IC company sales accounted for just over 7% of the total IC market. However, in 2009, fabless IC suppliers (including AMD) represented 23% of worldwide IC sales. Moreover, IC Insights forecasts that, in 2014, fabless IC companies will command at least 27% of the total IC market (especially as more large companies like LSI, Agere, and AMD become fabless over the next five years). Over the long-term, IC Insights believes that fabless IC suppliers, and the IC foundries that serve them, will continue to become a larger force in the total IC industry.


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