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Micron gets back in the DRAM game

Posted: 12 May 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:DRAM market  memory chip  DRAM sales  DRAM vendor 

For the first time in more than three years, memory chip vendor Micron Technology Inc. was among the top three in global DRAM market share for Q1, according to an analyst.

Micron moved past Japan's Elpida Memory Inc. to regain the No. 3 position in the DRAM market during the first quarter, according to preliminary analysis from Nam Hyung Kim, director and chief analyst of memory ICs and storage systems at iSuppli Corp.

With first quarter DRAM sales of Rs.2,449.91 crore ($484 million)—down 28 per cent year-to-year—Micron had 14.6 per cent DRAM market share in the first quarter, up from 13.8 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the analysis, distributed by Kim. It marks the first time since the fourth quarter of 2005 that Micron has been in the top three among global DRAM vendors, according to Kim.

South Korean chip vendors Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Hynix Semiconductor Inc. retained the top two market positions in DRAM during the first quarter, according to Kim. Samsung, the perennial No. 1 DRAM vendor, achieved a record high 34.3 per cent market share, up from 30 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008, while Hynix captured 21.6 per cent of the market, up from 20.8 in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to Kim.

Elpida slipped to No. 4, according to Kim, with 14.2 per cent market share, down from 15.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Q1 2009 DRAM market shares

(Click to view full image)

The DRAM business has been engulfed in a brutal downturn that has forced one vendor, Qimonda AG, to file for bankruptcy while others have sought government aid. The government of Taiwan has explored various plans to merge the Taiwanese memory vendors, forming a government-backed venture, Taiwan Memory Corp. But thus far to no avail.

In the first quarter, the global DRAM market contracted 20.1 per cent from the fourth quarter and 44.1 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2008, according to iSuppli.Average selling price per megabyte was down 8 per cent and megabyte units declined 13 per cent sequentially, according to the firm. Megabyte units grew 10 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2008, iSuppli said.

Kim cautioned that Micron's comeback could trigger a market share war, especially with Elpida and Hynix, adversely affecting the overall market.

"ISuppli believes that, inevitably, Micron will gain market share with additional fab access in the future," Kim wrote.

But Micron's ability to control a bigger piece of the market will depend on how quickly the Inotera fab Micron acquired can convert to Micron's stacked technology from Qimonda technology, according to Kim. Micron acquired Qimonda's stake in Inotera last November.

Nanya Technology Corp., Micron's joint venture partner, was the only other DRAM vendor to gain market share sequentially in the first quarter, according to Kim. Nanya's market share during the first quarter rose to 5.2 per cent from 4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to Kim.

Taiwan vendors ProMOS and Powerchip suffered substantial first quarter sales drops, Kim noted, with Powerchip's sales down 85 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2008.

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