Semi Inspection Equipment: Expect Consolidation - TheStreet

Semi Inspection Equipment: Expect Consolidation

Companies that make and sell inspection tools to the semiconductor industry are growing, due to recent aggressive acquisitions.
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Large companies that make and sell inspection tools to the semiconductor industry are getting larger and more dominant, due to recent aggressive acquisitions.

In the past few years, I have witnessed the acquisition of Therma-Wave, ADE, ICOS Vision Systems, August Technology, Accent Optical Technologies, Soluris, Laserfront Technologies, Tevet, Advanced Metrology Systems, QC Solutions and the MIE business unit of Vistec Semiconductor Systems

The severe downturn in the semiconductor industry put the brakes on acquisitions in 2009, but with growth projected above 75% for the inspection market in 2010, the cycle will start again.

According to our report,

Metrology, Inspection, and Process Control in VLSI Manufacturing

, the top 10 equipment suppliers held 87% of the overall market in 2009. By way of contrast, in 2003, the top 10 equipment suppliers held only 78% of the overall market.

In 2009,

KLA-Tencor

(KLAC) - Get Report

was the market leader, with a 44.0% share of the $2.2 billion market, well ahead of

Hitachi

and

Applied Materials

(AMAT) - Get Report

, with a 14.5% and 11.9% share, respectively.

In 2003, KLAC held only a 38.2% share of the market, and in fact, its share had grown to 49.5% of a $3.5 billion market in 2008, after a series of acquisitions. In 2003, AMAT's share was 13.4%, and it too reached a high of 15.8% in 2008.

Clearly 2009 was not a good year for all the 22 sectors of the inspection market covered in the report -- revenues were down 37.6%. It was also not a good year for KLAC and AMAT, which lost share in a down year. But they had been gaining until 2009 and it's likely that certain semiconductor customers of theirs cut back more capex spending in 2009 than their competitor's customers.

Nova Measuring Instruments

(NVMI) - Get Report

fared particularly well, growing 15.2% in 2009 and moving into 10 position; but revenue dropped 43% in 2008, when the overall market only dropped 23.8%, again illustrating that one year does not make a trend and revenue can be greatly impacted by one or two customers.

Robert N. Castellano, Ph.D, is President of The Information Network, a leading consulting and market-research firm for the semiconductor, LCD, HDD and solar industries. Castellano is internationally recognized as one of the leading experts in these areas. He has nearly 25 years of expertise as an industry analyst. Castellano has provided insight on emerging technologies to many business and technical publications, including Business 2.0, BusinessWeek, The Economist, Forbes, Investor's Business Daily, Los Angeles Times Magazine, The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and corporate events. He has over 10 years' experience in the field of wafer fabrication at AT&T Bell Laboratories and Stanford University before founding The Information Network in 1985. He has been editor of the peer-reviewed Journal of Active and Passive Electronic Devices since 1985. He is author of the book "Technology Trends in VLSI Manufacturing," published by Gordon and Breach. His book "Solar Cell Processing" was published in 2009 by Old City Publishing. He received his Ph.D. in solid state chemistry from Oxford University.