Samsung's lead is based in a phenomenal increase in sales – 52.6 percent year-on-year – that is ascribed largely to its memory sales. Memory component volumes and average selling prices (ASPs) increased in 2017 lifting up SK Hynix, Micron, Toshiba and Western Digital as well as Samsung.
NAND flash prices increased year-over-year for the first time ever, up 17 percent, while DRAM prices rose 44 percent. So Samsung's lead could be short-lived and the company could drop back to second or even third place during the next memory recession in 2019, Gartner said.
Worldwide semiconductor revenue totalled $419.7 billion in 2017, a 22.2 percent increase from 2016, buoyed by an undersupply in memory that helped drive 64 percent revenue growth in the memory market. As a result memory accounted for 31 percent of total semiconductor revenue in 2017.
Top 10 semiconductor vendors by worldwide revenue in 2017 (Millions of U.S. Dollars). Source: Gartner.
Second-placed Intel grew its revenue by just 6.7 percent in 2017. Intel did relatively well in server computers for data centers but its PC processor revenue grew more slowly at 1.9 percent.
"Memory pricing will weaken in 2018, initially for NAND flash and then DRAM in 2019 as China increases its memory production capacity. We then expect Samsung to lose a lot of the revenue gains it has made," said Andrew Norwood, research vice president at Gartner.
The combined revenues of Broadcom, Qualcomm and NXP – three companes entangled in as yet unresolved takeover initiatives – were $41.2 billion. If Broadcom can pull off a double acquisition it would be ranked third behind Samsung and Intel and could go ahead of Samsung if its revenue falls during the next memory downturn in 2019.
Related links and articles: