Less bad news than anticipated for the semiconductor industry in 2008

What's being absorbed as bad news -- a 2.0% overall decline in revenue for the entire semiconductor industry for 2008 -- could actually be blamed on just a few players, if you go behind iSuppli's recent numbers.

Sure, the barometer for growth in the global semiconductor industry turned south, especially since last September. But when looking at the world's top 20 producers collectively, as hardware analysis firm iSuppli is doing now, the news could be made to seem worse than it actually is.

As it turns out, if you remove the worst two performers in revenue from iSuppli's preliminary list of top 20 semiconductor manufacturers in terms of revenue for 2008 (with the latter part of the year being estimated, of course), among 18 of the top 20, the year's growth was almost flat.

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Hynix Semiconductor's annual revenue for the year is expected to come in a full 29.1% below 2007, at about $6.4 billion. This is iSuppli's estimate based on guidance and full-year projections after the manufacturer posted a net loss for the quarter ending last September of 1.67 trillion won (about $1.275 billion USD). The company blamed the continuing decline in NAND flash prices (down 23% annually) and the weak Korean won against the US dollar. Hynix slipped to ninth place in overall revenue, after having placed seventh on iSuppli's 2007 list.

But take Hynix out of the picture along with NXP Semiconductor, the Philips division headquartered in the Netherlands, and the overall impact among the remaining 18 players was only -0.4%. For an overall growth pattern, you'd only need to take out the third worst performer this year: Sony, whose current travails are already well-known, and whose revenues may decline by 12.5% annually to just over $7 billion. NXP is a 50% stakeholder in Moversa, a manufacturer of contactless ICs, along with Sony.

The double-whammy that hit Hynix also impacted Samsung, the world's #2 semiconductor manufacturer. Its revenues may decline by 9.1% this year to just under $17.9 billion.

CPU manufacturers may emerge from the front of the economic storm in fair shape, if iSuppli's predictions hold true. Number 1 revenue player Intel's revenue growth may end up being flat, which is pretty much what the company itself predicted; and #11 AMD's projected downturn may be so well within the margin of error as to be completely written off. This morning, iSuppli has AMD reaping just $8 million (that's with an "m") less in 2008 than in 2007, at $5.91 billion.

If you make SoCs and chipsets for cell phones and handsets, you're asking yourself right now, "What economic storm?" Number 8 revenue earner Qualcomm's revenue shot up 19.6% by iSuppli's estimates, to $6.7 billion; and Broadcom's 2008 revenue skyrocketed 26.4% to $4.7 billion. If you're big in optical drive components, you're also doing well, with #15 player Panasonic gaining 17.1% to $4.54 billion; and #19 Sharp gaining 11% to $3.77 billion.

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