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Monday, June 14, 2010

The Center of Gravity os Changing--PricewaterhouseCoopers

“The center of gravity is changing. The only question is how fast…”

This was the theme of the presentation given to the SEMI Sales and Marketing Council (SSMC) at last Tuesday’s lunch meeting by Raman Chitkara, Sr. Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, the world’s largest professional services firm.

As part of our regular monthly networking lunch, SSMC often has outside speakers join the group to share their perspective on important industry issues. This month we were extremely fortunate to welcome Raman Chitkara who has had a ring side seat in the key developments in Silicon Valley, and an insider’s knowledge of many of the leading companies in the semiconductor industry. He’s also leading expert on CleanTech, having been a principal leader in PwC’s informative “CleanTech Comes of Age" report. Raman is also one PwC's experts on China as leader of the "China's Impact on the Global Semiconductor Industry" report.

The center of gravity that Raman refers to is geographic. The move of high tech industries to Asia has been relentless. “As US companies extend globally, they spawn indigenous technology companies,” said Raman. Of the 29 firms that went IPO in the Q1 of this year, 1 was on Germany’s exchange, 3 on NASDAQ, and 24 were in China. The China firms raised over $2.5 billion.

The growing importance of emerging markets is part of this shift in gravity, not just in production, but consumption as well. The growing middle class in BRIC countries is driving world chip demand. Even during the recent semiconductor downturn, electronic systems manufacturers in China continued to increase their consumption of semiconductors at a rate three to five times the worldwide rate. As a result, China is remains the largest consumer of semiconductors for the fourth year in a row. In the past, much of this consumption was from US, Japanese and other global OEMs, now it is increasingly dominated by China electronic manufacturing firms with local sourcing authority. Raman sees China chip manufacturing sector to continue to grow, especially if the success of other international fab ventures continues.

The other major shift in the IC industry discussed by Raman was consumerization—not just in total chip consumption—but the fact that new technologies now appear first in consumer markets, not in business IT. Among the impacts this brings is the decline in vertical integration. “How can you sustain competitive advantage when everyone can get the same chips?” Apple is focusing on software differentiation with emphasis on only a few key components.

Raman sees a convergence of software and hardware services—complete solutions that allow companies to achieve dominant market shares. But he admits, “the rules are still being written…”

Another important impact on SEMI members will be he transition from US GAAP to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). China will make the change to IFRS in 2011, well before the US in 2013. Among this IFRS impact will be on leasing and capital equipment purchasing.

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