Posted : 2017-10-27 16:29
Updated : 2017-10-27 19:05

Chips represent 16 percent of 2017 exports

By Kang Seung-woo

Semiconductor exports are on pace to hit the highest volume of the nation¡¯s annual exports this year amid soaring memory chip demand.

According to industry data Friday, Korea's chip exports, driven by strong performances of Samsung Electronics and SK hynix, were valued at $70.4 billion (79.5 trillion won) as of September, up 56.5 percent from a year earlier.

The amount accounted for 16.4 percent of the nation's total exports of $430.1 billion, becoming the No. 1 export product.

If they maintain the current portion until the end of the year, it would be the first time to surpass the 16 percent mark in terms of annual proportion. The previous high was 15.1 percent in 2000.

Semiconductors became the nation' s top export in 1990 with 7 percent, and they also sat atop the list of export products last year, taking up 12.56 percent.

Some analysts forecast that the export volume may reach 20 percent given that the average selling price for memory semiconductors, sparked by growing demand, could continue its upward streak in the fourth quarter.

Samsung, the world's largest chipmaker, said it posted an operating profit of 14.5 trillion won in the third quarter in its earnings guidance earlier this month, and SK's quarterly profit reached an all-time high of 3.73 trillion won.

In addition, the top two chipmakers are expected to chalk up 15 trillion won and 4 trillion won, respectively, in the final quarter of the year thanks to the memory chip "super cycle."

Chip exports first surpassed $10 billion in 1994, $20 billion in 2000 and $50 billion in 2010.

As of the second quarter, U.S.-based Intel and Samsung took up 14.3 percent and 14.2 percent of the global market, respectively, followed by SK with 5.8 percent.

However, when it comes to memory chips, Samsung is the runaway leader and SK is a runner-up.

Meanwhile, other experts said the rising presence of semiconductors in the country's exports indicates that Korea must seek to diversify its portfolio as the global chip industry is also vulnerable to sudden fluctuations.

For this year, however, a majority of experts seem to agree that the super cycle will remain in place.

"The operating profit from the chip business is expected to remain strong in the fourth quarter thanks to surging prices for DRAM and NAND flash memory," KB Securities analyst Kim Dong-won said.

DRAM is a significant part for desktop computers while NAND is the building block for mobile devices such as smartphones.

Brokerages also forecast that Samsung's record-setting streak will continue in the final quarter of the year, with its operating profit projected to surpass 16 trillion won for the first time in history."The fourth-quarter operating profit is expected to reach 16.4 trillion won with 11.5 trillion won coming from the chip business,¡± Park said. He added that revenue will amount to 65.2 trillion won.

"The market is worried about the odds of a peak in chip prices, but prices for DRAM and NAND are likely to remain strong," he said.

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