Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), the association of companies that supply manufacturing technology and materials to chipmakers, says worldwide semiconductor manufacturing equipment shipments hit $11.2 billion in the first quarter of 2001. The figure is 10.9% above the same quarter a year ago and 12.7% below that for the fourth quarter of 2000.

SEMI also reported worldwide equipment orders of $6.50 billion in Q1 2001. This is 50% below the same quarter a year ago and 53% below Q4 2000.

"There was a rapid shift in the market outlook for new semiconductor equipment in the first quarter," said Elizabeth Schumann, SEMI director of industry research and statistics. "While the rapidity of this downturn has been severe, we do expect a recovery in orders late in the second half to contribute to a more stable 2002 with flat or single digit growth across the industry."

SEMI revised its 2001 worldwide projection for the semiconductor manufacturing equipment industry, estimating a 27% decline in worldwide equipment shipments from $47.7 billion in 2000 to $35 billion in 2001. Three-percent growth is expected for the year 2002, followed by 22% growth in 2003.

"The growth experienced in 2000 is difficult to sustain and in fact is not desirable over the longterm in a cyclical industry such as ours," said Stanley T. Myers, president and CEO of SEMI. "Historically, the semiconductor equipment industry has grown at a compound annual rate of 17%. Given 87% growth in one year, we can expect that the next year or so should see a realignment with historic averages while the chip industry makes adjustments to bring capacity and inventory in line with demand."

"While annual revenues for integrated circuits (ICs) fluctuate based on average selling prices, the unit volume production has historically increased yearly," said Schumann. "1985 was the last year in which there was an decline in annual unit volume. Based on current trends, it appears that 2001 will be another negative growth year for IC units, which is contributing to the equipment market decline and will likely impact semiconductor materials market as well."

SEMI is projecting that the worldwide semiconductor materials shipments, which typically track volume production, will decrease 6% in 2001.