Intel, Samsung 'smell blood in the water'

January 23, 2012 // By Dylan McGrath
Aggressive 2012 capital spending plans revealed this week by Intel Corp., and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., signal that the two largest chip firms see an opportunity to distance themselves from competitors and are ready to spend heavily to do it, according to a report by market research firm IC Insights Inc.

Based on the capital expenditure forecasts revealed this week, Intel and Samsung together are expected to account for about half of total semiconductor capital expenditures this year, IC Insights said.

Intel, which said Thursday (January 19) it plans to spend roughly $12.5 billion on capex, and Samsung, which revealed earlier this week it plans to spend about $12.2 billion on semiconductor capex, are each expected to more than double the 2012 capital expenditures of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC), the third biggest spender, IC Insights said. TSMC said earlier this week it plans to spend about $6 billion on capex this year.

"It is apparent that for Samsung, Intel, and TSMC, the time has come to put the hammer down and position themselves as the strongest and most dominant IC suppliers in the industry," IC Insights said in an excerpt from the 2012 edition of the firm's McClean report. IC Insights said the three firms are becoming more dominant in their areas of specialization and that smaller competitors may soon find it extremely challenging to remain competitive in developing new products or competing on a cost basis.

"Weaker suppliers will be forced out of the business and a higher percentage of capex spending will be in the hands of the fewer remaining players," IC Insights said.

Since 2009, Intel, Samsung and TSMC have boosted capital spending significantly, IC Insights noted. In 2010, TSMC doubled its capital spending compared to 2009, while Samsung tripled its semiconductor capex spending, IC Insights said. In 2011, Intel doubled its capex compared to 2010, IC Insights said.

Collectively, the planned capex spending of Intel, Samsung and TSMC is forecast to be $30.7 billion in 2012, nearly 3 times as much as the group spent in downturn-plagued year of 2009, IC Insights said.

Samsung said it would spend about $6.5 billion in capital expenditures to support its logic ICs, more than it is planning to