Annual Outlook at Virtual ISS 2021 Point to Global Economic and Chip Industry Growth

MILPITAS, Calif.  – The global economy will return to pre-pandemic growth levels in 2021 as the world begins an uneven gross domestic product rebound, marking the start of an expansion that will see the semiconductor industry grow to $1 trillion in chip sales in the early 2030s, speakers at the Virtual SEMI Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS) last week revealed. Conference content is now available to attendees on demand until February 13, 2021.

Citibank Managing Director and Global Chief Economist Catherine Mann said that global GDP is expected to return to a 5% growth rate this year and rise to more than 7% in late 2021 or 2022 on the back of the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, though the 2021 net gain will be slight after the 4% contraction last year. The United States and China, together accounting for 50% of global GDP, will drive much of the recovery. China has returned to its pre-pandemic GDP growth rate and the U.S. is not far behind, with projections that the world’s largest economy will normalize growth in the second quarter of 2021. The prospects reflect consensus forecasts of economists polled by Citigroup.

Europe, the world’s third largest economy, is not expected to restore economic growth to typical levels until the fourth quarter of 2022. Among emerging markets, Latin America is forecast to return to pre-COVID growth no sooner than 2023, with those in Asia riding the coattails of China to a faster recovery. Mann said that trade growth across the world’s economies will also “remain asynchronous.” Global trade was flat in 2018 and 2019 after the outbreak of trade wars and collapsed 20% in the depths of COVID-19 last year. This year, trade is forecast to return to zero growth.

Global Semiconductor Revenue to Grow in 2021

The return to economic growth is expected to spark an expansion of the semiconductor industry. Worldwide semiconductor revenue is set to rise as much as 7% in 2021, with 5G deployments and PCs for remote work and learning among the key drivers, Mario Morales, Program Vice President of Enabling Technologies and Semiconductors, Storage, and DataSphere Research at International Data Corporation (IDC), said at the Jan. 12-13 SEMI event. IDC forecasts show semiconductor revenue increasing to $450 billion this year and returning to $500 billion in market size in 2024, with steady annual growth between 4% and 6%.

Accelerating spending “across the board” on Information Communications Technology (ICT) will be a key catalyst of the expansion. The ICT segment includes mobile, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, big data analytics, robotics, security and artificial intelligence (AI). In sector growth, computing and mobile handsets will be standouts with a 4.5% CAGR over the next four years. In the computing segment – spanning data centers, PCs and peripherals – IDC forecasts growth to $170 billion, while the firm expects the mobile handsets segment to reach $144 billion by 2024.

5G, IT Infrastructure, Memory Capacity Buildout Among Key Drivers of Chip Industry Growth

Cloud computing will be a key force behind chip industry growth in 2021 as cloud infrastructure buildouts drive higher server demand stemming from the pandemic-inspired surge in online shopping and increasing adoption of the public cloud, said Andrea Lati, Vice President of Market Research at VLSI Research. A doubling of 5G smartphone shipments and surging 5G base station deployments following the 2020 slowdown will also fuel the semiconductor industry expansion this year. One big contributor: 5G smartphones feature at least 50% more silicon than 4G models.

Lati said semiconductor industry sales will increase 8% this year as memory leads the recovery – DRAM and NAND are forecast to grow 13% and 12%, respectively. The global IT infrastructure buildout, 5nm demand ramp, and continuing liquidity measures by central banks will also help drive industry growth in 2021. Lati predicted a bright future for the chip industry as technology figures prominently in much of global economic growth over the next 10 years. Equipment and semiconductor sales are expected to reach $200 billion and $1 trillion, respectively, in the early 2030s.

The SEMI Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS) examines global economic, technology, market, business and geo-political developments influencing the global electronics manufacturing industry along with their implications for your strategic business decisions. For more than 35 years, ISS has been the premier semiconductor conference for senior executives to acquire the latest trend data, technology highlights and industry perspective to support business decisions, customer strategies and the pursuit of greater profitability.