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Chip sales surge in 2000 despite slow fourth quarter

Semiconductor revenues rise for the second consecutive year, but the 31 percent growth is shaded by worries over future sales, according to a new study.

Semiconductor sales rose in 2000 for the second consecutive year, but the strong growth has been shaded somewhat by worries over future growth, according to a new study.

Preliminary figures released Tuesday by Gartner research unit Dataquest show that the worldwide semiconductor market reached $222.1 billion in revenue in 2000, a 31 percent increase from $169.1 billion in 1999.

But weakness in the fourth quarter may be spilling over into 2001. Gartner analysts said Tuesday that they plan to cut their estimate for this year's growth in revenues for semiconductor manufacturers from 27 percent to around 20 percent or 21 percent. The numbers are expected to be announced later this week, a representative said.

Still, the healthy returns for 2000 should provide some reassurance to those who grew uneasy during the last weeks of the year, according to a Dataquest analyst.

"We are now at the end of the second year of an up cycle and there is despondency regarding the future, as the fourth quarter of 2000 was weak relative to the preceding quarter," Joe D'Elia, vice president and director of Dataquest's European semiconductor research, said in a statement.

The current weakening is an inventory correction, D'Elia said, the sort of development seen historically during the positive portion of the industry's cycle.

The new study comes after warnings by a number of chipmakers that revenues and profits will be lower than expected for the fourth quarter of 2000. In December, for instance, Advanced Micro Devices and Intel both warned investors that sales of their products would be roughly flat in the preceding quarter, citing a recent drop in computer buying by consumers as the culprit.

For the year, Intel held on to its wide margin as the top chipmaker, with revenue up 11 percent from 1999 to $29.7 billion, more than twice that of its nearest rival.

Toshiba edged past NEC into the No. 2 spot in 2000, rising 47 percent from the previous year to $11.2 billion in revenue, compared with NEC's $11.1 billion, up 20 percent. Dataquest attributed Toshiba's "outstanding" year to success in its efforts to diversify from memory.

Also in the top five were Samsung, with $10.8 billion in revenue, up 52 percent, and Texas Instruments, whose revenue was $9.1 billion, up 28 percent.

Other movers in the top 10 included STMicroelectronics, which jumped up from ninth place to seventh with a revenue increase of 57 percent to $7.9 billion in 2000, and Hyundai, which shot up from 11th spot to ninth, with revenue rising 43 percent to almost $6.9 billion.

The No. 1 regional market for semiconductors in 2000 was the Americas, with revenue of $71.7 billion, an increase of 29 percent over 1999; and the No. 2 region was Asia Pacific, which had revenue totaling $56.9 billion. Japan, tallied separately, saw semiconductor revenue hit $50.4 billion, an increase of 33 percent; and Europe rose to $43.1 billion, up 29 percent.