Current Slowdown in Ceramic Capacitor Markets To Be Short-lived

Key findings of a new market study by Paumanok Publications, Inc entitled “Ceramic Capacitors: World Markets, Technologies & Opportunities: 2012-2017 ISBN # 1-893211-25-8forecasts a 7% global drop in worldwide ceramic capacitor receipts for the fiscal year ending March 2012 due to excess inventories in the supply chain and a slowdown in demand from key end-use markets; however, the long term outlook for the key passive component remains robust. The following figure (Figure 1) illustrates global revenues by quarter for ceramic capacitor manufacturers who are pure plays in the space .  The chart illustrates a a slowdown in the market for December 2011 quarter and the March 2012 quarter resulting in a 7% year-over-year market slowdown overall for ceramic capacitor consumption worldwide for FY 2012 (Year ending March).

Figure 1: Top Four Ceramic Capacitor Manufacturers: Sales Trend By Quarter: 2008-2012 (In Millions of USD)


Impact of Recent Events On The Value of Ceramic Capacitor Shipments for FY 2012

There have been some recent events that have impacted the ceramic capacitor market and its global value of consumption for FY 2012.  These include the following:

Quarterly Ceramic Capacitor Shipment Data For FY 2012:

The actual reporting for Murata, TDK, Taiyo Yuden, Kyocera/AVX, Walsin , Vishay and Yageo for the December 2011 quarter shows a clear quarter-to-quarter downturn guidance from Kemet and Vishay; as well as forecasting from the major Japanese vendors- Murata, TDK, Taiyo Yuden and Kyocera indicate a significant slowdown in quarterly revenues for the March 2011 quarter due to a severe slowdown in demand brought about by higher than anticipated inventories in the distribution channel.

Impact of Flooding in Thailand:

The impact of the Thailand floods which impacted the market in 2011 and which persist in 2012 was primarily of great impact to the hard disc drive industry for computer and game console markets worldwide.  The inability for the computer manufacturers to obtain hard disc drives in turn caused computer companies to refuse shipments of other components, including ceramic capacitors, that were not needed because production was curtailed.


While there was no reports of any damage to any major capacitor factories in Thailand (Murata maintains a factory there), a major tantalum capacitor factory- NEC Tokin was wholly destroyed, as was the tantalum factory of Rohm Company Limited, both of whom had major share in ultra-small case size tantalum chips that are readily replaced by high capacitance ceramic chip capacitors.  Regardless, most customers in handsets that consume ultra-small case size tantalum chips found alternative vendors- primarily AVX and Nichicon.

Impact of Tohuku Japan Quake:

The impact of the great Tohoku Japan earthquake on the ceramic capacitor supply chain was in fact quite severe.  The impact was not directly on the capacitor manufacturers themselves, but on two major vendors of key raw materials- Nippon Chemical Industrial (Barium Compounds) and Sakai Chemical (Titanium Materials) which are used to produced barium titanate and other titanate materials which are the key building blocks for ceramic capacitors.  The two vendors that were impacted are critical for their ability to manufacture nanotechnology type materials consumed in the production of high capacitance chip capacitors.  The affect on these two factories was severe and impacted the supply chain not only in Japan, but in Korea, Europe and the USA as well as almost all ceramic capacitor vendors source these two factories.  Through major effort though, the impact on the supply chain was contained as the ceramic capacitor manufacturers worked closely with the materials suppliers to get their materials operations back up and running without any major impact on the supply chain.  The immediate impact on the supply chain occurred in April 2011 as customers, fearing they would not get parts for the holiday season, purchased extra ceramic capacitors to stock up on inventories.  This caused a spike in buying in April and May 2011, but by June the buying spree had subsided.  This extra-inventory in the supply chain worked against the ceramic capacitor manufacturers in the December quarter of 2011.

Impact of The European Economic Crisis:

The European economic crisis has negatively impacted the economies of Iceland, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland and created austerity economies in the UK, Italy and France.  This is in fact the impact of the reach of various banks into the financial activities of multiple countries.  Still, the major consumer of components in Europe is Germany, and they have not been as damaged as other nations due to their bear hold on the European automotive market, which remains a growth sector.  Regardless we expect Europe to remain overall flat with respect to component consumption in FY 2013, and to have had a negative impact on the demand cycle in the December 2011 quarter and the March 2012 quarter of the fiscal year.

Impact of Excess Distributor Inventory Levels:

Ceramic capacitor inventories at the major capacitor distributors (Avnet, Arrow, TTI, Future, DigiKey and World Peace Group) have remained at higher levels than usual due to the series of events which have impacted the market since April 2011.  Early indications in 2012 suggest that the distributors will begin purchasing again in March 2012 or sometime in the June quarter, depending upon the level of consumer demand.  The only end-use markets that remain regionally strong are the automotive markets and the specialty markets, however, these only account for 16% of demand combined and are not significant enough to change the pattern of demand.  Demand from handsets, computers and TV sets is required for full growth in ceramic capacitor consumption to continue. This is only a matter of time.

Outlook Remains Robust: 2012-2017

Regardless of the recent downturn impacting the market; the study also predicts that demand for ceramic capacitors will pick up again in FY 2013 and continue to grow at high single digit rates until FY 2015 to satisfy pent up demand for end-products.  In The current March 2012 quarter, demand remains low because of the seasonal slowdown in production of wireless handsets, the single largest consumer of MLCC in the world; and the computer markets continue to remain lackluster driven largely by a lack of key components, specifically hard drives due to the effects of the flooding in Thailand.  Also demand from the TV set sector has waned largely as a result of a dramatic drop in production of CRT monitors in the 2012 FY.  However within a few quarters it is predicted that these problems will iron themselves out.  Positive signs of growth include the automotive sector, which has not slowed down at all, and is predicted to grow by more than 6% in unit sales in FY 2013.  Also the growth in demand for “Smartphones” which have considerably higher content of ceramic capacitors when compared to traditional phones will grow as a result of Apple’s role out in China and the fact that Smartphones have considerable room for growth in order to displace the majority of traditional phones currently on the market.  Also, the TV set market is about to undergo a substantial change in  demand, first of all because inventories are extremely low for flat panel displays and feature rich designs, including 3D TV, are about to hit the market.  The computer market is experiencing inner turmoil as tablets and ultra-books continue to find their niche at the expense of desktop and notebook computers; however the rapid growth in tablet demand, and the expected doubling of output for FY 2013 offsets the fact that they have lower component counts when compared to desktop and notebook computers.  Niche markets for ceramic capacitors, where value-added and application specific component consumption remains strong include the oil & gas industry and medical electronics.  Taken collectively, the conclusion is one of anticipated growth over the next five years to 2017.

Figure 2: Forecasted AAG in Worldwide Ceramic Capacitor Revenues: FY2012-2017

Source: Paumanok Publications, Inc.Ceramic Capacitors: World Markets, Technologies & Opportunities: 2012-2017 ISBN # 1-893211-25-8  (February 2012)”

Demand from the handset, computer and TV set business will fuel growth over the next five years, with the rapid conversion to smartphones, tablet computing and 3D TV sets driving demand for MLCC.