TSMC Retains Crown as Top Contract Chip Supplier in 2012

Paul Lilly

TSMC's 2012 chip sales were nearly four times higher than that of Globalfoundries.

Remember M.C. Hammer? Someone press play on "Can't Touch This," which should be the theme song for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the top contract chip supplier in 2012. Barring something extraordinary, TSMC will probably lead 2013 sales too, considering its nearest competitor, Globalfoundries, raked in almost four times less cash last year.

According to IC Insights, TSMC collected $17.16 billion in sales during 2012, up 18 percent from $14.6 billion a year prior. Globalfondries, meanwhile, raked in $4.56 billion in 2012, up 31 percent from $3.48 billion in 2011.

The company to keep an eye on is Samsung, now the third largest chip supplier in the world. Samsung had a fantastic year and nearly caught up to Globalfoundries, collecting $4.33 billion in sales, up 98 percent from $2.19 billion a year earlier.

"In 2012, Samsung almost doubled its foundry sales and surpassed UMC to become the third-largest IC foundry in the world. Moreover, IC Insights believes that the company will challenge GlobalFoundries for the number two spot in the ranking in 2013," IC Insights said. "Samsung has the ability (i.e., leading-edge capacity and a huge capital spending budget) and desire to become a major force in the IC foundry business. It is estimated that the company’s dedicated IC foundry capacity reached 150,000 300mm wafers per month in 4Q12. Using an average-revenue-per-wafer figure of $3,000, Samsung’s IC foundry capacity currently has the potential to produce annual sales of about $5.4 billion."

Samsung's performance in 2013 will depend on how it handles its deteriorating relationship with Apple. According to IC Insights, Apple is "still very reliant on Samsung" for its processor production for iPad tablets, iPhone handsets, and iPod touch devices. At the same time, Apple has been looking to sever ties with Samsung and has reportedly been testing the waters with TSMC.

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