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TSMC says PC chip shipments down 20 percent

TSMC, the world's largest contract chip manufacturer, said chip shipments are expected to be off 20 percent in the fourth quarter.

More dire forecasts for the chip industry.

On the heels of comments from a chip industry watchdog group last week saying the chip equipment business is "on hold," Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world's largest contract chip manufacturer, said PC-related chip shipments are expected to be off 20 percent in the fourth quarter.

This bodes ill for PC makers, which appear to be cutting way back on chip orders.

"(For) our fourth quarter computer-related wafer shipments...we expect to see over a 20 percent decline. Which is very severe...compared to a seasonal mid-teens percentage growth," said CEO Rick Tsai on Thursday, speaking during the company's earnings announcement.

TSMC is considered an industry bellwether because it makes graphics chips for both Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia and manufactures a variety of chips that go into cell phones and consumer electronics devices as well as other chips for PCs.

The "supply chain"--the myriad of companies that order chips from TSMC--is "reducing inventory very aggressively," he said.

Because of the state of the world's financial markets, "most our customers are aggressively paring their inventories and have thus reduced significantly their wafer demand," said Lora Ho, VP and chief financial officer of TSMC.

"We believe the foundry sector will likely underperform the overall semiconductor industry in 2009," he said. Foundry refers to a contract chip manufacturer. "In 2009, we now expect the semiconductor industry to decline by mid-to high single digit in 2009. With very little visibility."

TSMC reported a net profit of NT$30.574 billion ($930 million) in the July-September quarter, the company said Thursday. That was slightly higher than NT$30.4 billion reported a year ago.

Chartered Semiconductor, another large contract chip manufacturer, also said on Thursday that it "started to see orders declining from the middle of August, followed by some customer requests to reschedule deliveries forward. The weakness is expected to deepen into the fourth quarter."

The prepared comments continued: "Based on current outlook, we are guiding for Chartered revenues to be down approximately 21 percent sequentially...in the fourth quarter. In line with the demand outlook, we are also reducing our capital expenditure for 2008 to $650 million, which is $100 million lower than the amount we had earlier anticipated."