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Tech industry faces tough times

17 сентября 2008

The technology industry’s downturn will last until the end of 2009, according to suppliers of components used in almost every electronic product.

Japanese groups such as TDK, Kyocera, Murata Manufacturing and Nichicon, which dominate global markets for components such as capacitors and inductors, report heavy pressure on prices because high-end components are not selling.

“This year and next will both be tough. It is one of the worst markets I have seen,” an executive of one of the largest component makers said.

That implies hard times for mobile handset makers such as Nokia, PC companies such as Dell, and consumer electronics producers such as Sony and Panasonic.

Component makers see the whole market, so their outlook is not distorted by the success of particular products or regions. One company president said: “I think the decoupling theory has been corrected.

“The demand for the BRICs [Brazil, Russian India and China] domestic market is very small and the majority of products made there are shipped to the US or elsewhere.”

Demand for basic products from China and India is keeping shipment volumes up, but high-margin, miniaturised components, such as those used in the latest mobile phones, are suffering. The Japanese industry’s sales fell 6 per cent by value in the second quarter of 2008.

The mobile phone market is the most difficult, but others are deteriorating.

PCs used a lot of electronic components, but “I hear that stock is starting to pile up”, the company president said.

Flat-panel televisions were selling well through the Olympics, but most component makers doubt this will continue.

Some have heard that users of office equipment such as printers and photocopiers are extending their leases rather than upgrading to the latest model.

A bright spot is automotive electronics, where the increased electronics content of the average car is outweighing weak car sales.

Component makers are excited by the development of hybrid and plug-in electric cars, which will create a new market for high-power capacitors and other devices.

The conditions, along with a stronger yen, will mean falls in profit at almost every component group this year.

Murata forecasts a 40 per cent fall in net profits on a 1.3 per cent rise in sales; TDK forecasts flat sales but a 22 per cent decline in net income.

Taiyo Yuden expects a 44 per cent fall in net profit and a small dip in sales.

The component groups are confident of remaining profitable, however, because of their strong technology base and diversified clientele.

Many high-end components are still made in Japan, and their makers have often delivered higher returns on capital than their more glamorous customers, which sell finished TVs, computers and phones.

Источник: Financial Times

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