The Setting Sun
The demise of Japanese semiconductor manufacturing is traced by IC Insights.
In 1990, six Japanese companies were counted among the top 10 semiconductor suppliers—a figure that has not been matched by any country or region since.
The number of Japanese companies ranked in the top 10 in semiconductor sales slipped to four in 1995, then fell to three companies in 2000 and 2006, two companies in 2012, and then to only one company in the first half of 2013. Toshiba is the last man standing.
It is worth noting that Renesas (11), Sony (16), and Fujitsu (22) were ranked among the top 25 semiconductor suppliers in 1H13, but Sony has been struggling to re-invent itself and Fujitsu has spent the first half of 2013 divesting most of its semiconductor operations.
Once-prominent Japanese names now gone from the top suppliers list include NEC, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, and Matsushita.
Competitive pressures from South Korean IC suppliers—especially in the DRAM market—have played a significant role in changing the look of the top 10.
Samsung andHynix emulated and perfected the Japanese manufacturing model over the years and cut deeply into sales and profits of Japanese semiconductor manufacturers, resulting in spin-offs, mergers, and acquisitions becoming more prevalent among Japanese suppliers.
The timeline of decline reads:
• 1999 — Hitachi and NEC merged their DRAM businesses to create Elpida Memory.
• 2000 — Mitsubishi divested its DRAM business into Elpida Memory.
• 2003 — Hitachi merged its remaining Semiconductor & IC Division with Mitsubishi’s System LSI Division to create Renesas Technology.
• 2003 — Matsushita began emphasizing Panasonic as its main global brand name in 2003. Previously, hundreds of consolidated companies sold Matsushita products under the Panasonic, National, Quasar, Technics, and JVC brand names.
• 2007 — To reduce losses, Sony cut semiconductor capital spending and announced its move to an asset-lite strategy—a major change in direction for its semiconductor business.
• 2010 — NEC merged its remaining semiconductor operations with Renesas Technology to form Renesas Electronics.
• 2011 — Sanyo Semiconductor was acquired by ON Semiconductor.
• 2013 — Fujitsu and Panasonic agreed to consolidate the design and development functions of their system LSI businesses.
• 2013 — Fujitsu sold its MCU and analog IC business to Spansion.
• 2013 — Fujitsu sold its wireless semiconductor business to Intel.
• 2013 — Elpida Memory was formally acquired by Micron.
• 2013 — After failing to find a buyer, Renesas announced plans to close its 300mm and 125mm wafer-processing site in Tsuruoka, Japan, by the end of 2013. The facility makes system-LSI chips for Nintendo video game consoles and other consumer electronics.
• 2013 — Unless it finds a buyer, Fujitsu plans to close its 300mm wafer fab in Mie.