The semiconductor industry is notoriously cyclical. That cycle is currently at a low point; according to the Semiconductor Industry Association, semiconductor sales worldwide dropped 16% in July from the previous year.
However, there are signs of a rebound. Even though sales may be momentarily depressed, the sector has still outperformed this year. As of late September, the iShares PHLX Semiconductor exchange-traded fund has gained 34%, beating the 18% increase in the S&P 500 over the same period.
There is one company that has relative immunity from the declining chip demand, which has been exacerbated by the trade war and slowing growth in the worldwide smartphone market. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (NYSE:TSM) is well poised not only for increased revenue growth in China but also for worldwide growth because of its critical role in the entire tech supply chain.
The company is in a good position to not only rebound along with other chip makers but also to surpass the competition in a number of areas and maintain continued growth, irrespective of the whether the industry is in a trough or crest of the demand cycle. The company presents an excellent way for intelligent investors to benefit from its continued innovation thanks to aggressive R&D and capital spending on cutting edge products and processes.
Taiwan Semiconductor’s advantage
Taiwan Semiconductor’s customer roster includes some of the world’s leading tech companies, such as Apple (AAPL), Qualcomm (QCOM), Huawei Technologies, Nvidia (NVDA) and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD.) All of these tech companies rely on the company to manufacture the most in-demand, high-performance chips for use in smartphones, cloud servers, AI applications and networking switching devices.
No other chip maker has such a built-in demand advantage. The numbers support this proposition. According to JPMorgan (JPM), Taiwan Semiconductor accounts for approximately 50% of global foundry revenues and 80% to 90% of the sector’s profits.
In addition,Taiwan Semiconductor has increased its market dominance in recent years. Due to its research and development investments, the company was the first to offer the market the first 7 nanometer chip production at significant capacity. Lower nanometer ratings translate into greater performance and improved power efficiency, which helps address the always-present heat-dissipation issue.
By comparison, no other chip maker in the industry has the capabilities for making 7nm processors; Intel, which makes its own chips, isn’t slated to have 7nm products until 2021.
Even though it far surpasses the competition in its processor offerings, the company is not resting on its laurels. Taiwan Semiconductor has recently announced that it intends to begin volume production of 5nm processing products in the first half of next year. The 5nm engineered chips will offer 15% enhanced performance and/or a 30% power reduction than its existing 7nm semiconductors. An additional benefit is that due to their increased density, the new 5nm processors will require less material, leading to cost savings.
As the cloud computing services sector continues to expand exponentially, cloud database companies will need chips that can deliver bone-crunching power in order to handle