For the latest contract manufacturing news and EMS industry trends, MMI is the place to go. But don’t take our word for it. Here are some important stories we’ve covered in previous issues:
January 2017. There was once a time when the EMS industry seemed to have no limit in terms of revenue growth, starting in the 1990s and continuing into the next decade, yet all this head-spinning growth ended abruptly in 2012. Now the industry seems to be closely following the growth projection of the overall OEM electronics market, which has been 2–3% a year lately. It’s not as though there hasn’t been any growth, but most of it has been channeled into the commodities market—smartphones, PCs, tablets, and digital televisions—dominated by the largest EMS and ODM suppliers. But of more interest to the broader industry is that there has been some good growth in the high-complexity industries such as industrial, medical, aerospace, and automotive. This expansion in outsourcing is expected to continue as the benefits of subcontracting production become increasingly proven to the OEM world. Slowly but surely, Asian OEMs are starting to realize that they can’t keep up with the significant capital investment to run their own in-house manufacturing. This is going to become increasingly apparent as the lines between IC foundries, advanced packaging, and EMS assembly blur.
December 2016. As most readers of MMI are aware, Foxconn Technology Group is in preliminary discussions to make an investment that would expand the company’s US operations. The disclosure came hours after an announcement by US President-elect Donald Trump and SoftBank Group Corp’s Masayoshi Son to invest $50 billion in the US and create 50,000 jobs. A document that Son held up after the meeting in Trump Tower also included the word “Foxconn.” Restoring thousands of manufacturing jobs to the United States’ struggling Rust Belt communities was one of President-elect Donald Trump’s biggest campaign promises, and Apple has begun exploring the possibility of moving smartphone production to the United States.* Speculation began with an interview with The New York Times in which Trump recounted a phone conversation with Tim Cook, during which he urged the CEO to move part of Apple’s production line to the US. In this conversation, president-elect Donald Trump apparently said, “I think we’ll create the incentives for you, and I think you’re going to do it. We’re going for a very large tax cut for corporations, which you’ll be happy about.” Trump is a vocal supporter of US companies that build their products in the US, and has proposed levying steep tariffs—potentially as high as 45 percent—on competing Chinese importers. But China’s reaction could be severe. In an opinion piece published in a state-backed newspaper, the Chinese government warned of retaliatory measures if such trade restrictions were to go into effect. “A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. US auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the US,” a Global Times article read.
November 2016. A mid-single-digit decline for the first nine months of 2016 raises the possibility that the top 12 EMS providers as a whole will not end up with annual growth in 2016. For the first nine months of 2016, revenue for the 12 largest EMS providers by total sales amounted to $179.5 billion, down 6.2% year over year. This is in sharp contrast with 2015, when there was an increase of 6.6%. Unlike in 2015, when Hon Hai gave a boost to top-12 sales, so far this year Hon Hai has exerted a drag on sales. For the first nine months, top-12 sales without Hon Hai were down 3% versus a decline of 6.2% including the company (Chart 1). So Hon Hai made the decline worse by 3.2 percentage points. While top-12 revenue is not all EMS—ODM, component, and other types of revenue are mixed in—the majority of it is, enough so that this decline serves as a rough gauge of how well the EMS industry did in the first nine months, based on the belief that the top 12 account for about half of industry revenue. Nine-month sales results can give one a partial view of how the top-12 order will shape up at the end of the year. The first three companies in the current standings—Hon Hai, Pegatron, and Flex, in that order—will easily retain those positions at year end, barring the entry of any potential new candidate. Jabil, Sanmina, and Celestica will remain in fourth, fifth, and sixth place, respectively. However, Cal-Comp is a member of the New Kinpo Group, whose 2015 sales might challenge those of Sanmina in the annual ranking of the MMI Top 50.
October 2016. As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes increasingly common, there is an emerging trend in favor of “module manufacturing,” which includes IC packaging and compound semiconductor assembly. The recent success of system-in-package (SiP) and multichip module (MCM) solutions is leading top-tier EMS and ODM companies to explore alliances with IC packaging and optoelectronics firms. The logic behind this is clear: IC packaging firms have operating margins more than double those of EMS firms—averaging around 18% to 20%—whereas EMS firms have gross margins of only 2% to 10%. Foundry chip companies that are farther up the supply chain maintain gross margins of 40% to 50%, and may offer attractive opportunities for outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) and EMS providers to improve earnings. How far up the supply chain these companies will go remains to be seen, but MMI has observed that there is currently quite a bit of activity going on in this space.
September 2016. Based on first-half results of 20 of the largest contract manufacturers, neither the EMS model nor the ODM approach exhibited growth this year so far. Combined first-half sales of 11 large EMS providers declined 8%, whereas the aggregate sales of six large ODMs dropped 10.3%. Apparently, both groups were buffeted almost equally by the macroeconomic headwinds swirling about the global economy. But that is not the end of the story of the first six months. There is a third class of contract manufacturer—the hybrid provider—that does substantial amounts of both EMS and ODM business. In conformity with the decline of the ODM group, combined sales of three large hybrid CMs dropped in the first half. The hybrid group’s revenue declined only a minor 2.2% year over year, more than 50 percentage points better than the performance of the other two groups (Chart 1). If this comparison can be generalized, it would seem that the hybrid model did a better job of withstanding the vicissitudes of the first half.
August 2016. Based on MMI’s estimates for the first nine months of 2016, the six largest US-traded EMS providers, as a group, will need a double-digit gain in the fourth quarter in order to turn 2016 into a growth year. In the current demand environment, such growth may be a tall order for the final quarter, although providers have been working diligently to boost sales with new program ramps. MMI is projecting that third-quarter sales for the group will total $14.73 billion by setting the sales estimate for each provider equal to the midpoint of its Q3 guidance. At that level, Q3 sales will have risen 1.5% sequentially, marking the second straight quarter-on-quarter increase. Since the sequential increases will have started two quarters back, 1Q2016 looks in the rear-view mirror like a revenue bottom (see chart).
July 2016. The number of M&A deals done in the EMS industry increased in the first half of 2016 versus the year-earlier period. According to MMI’s count, 13 M&A transactions closed in the EMS industry during the first six months of the year, up from nine in the first half of 2015 (Chart 1). That’s an increase of 44%. If deal making continues at this pace in the second half, then 2016 will go down as the busiest year for industry M&A since 1995. What’s fueling the growth in M&A activity? Industry data presents a strong argument that the uptick in M&A activity has been fueled by corporations’ quest for growth. Rather than spin their wheels trying to do it all internally, it’s easier to buy another company’s existing products, profits, and market share.
June 2016. Following a very strong year in revenue growth for electronics assembly services in 2013 of 10.7 percent, the market in 2014 grew 8.0 percent, but declined 2.4 percent in 2015. This low growth in revenue trickled down in the EMS industry, as will be seen in this issue of MMI. What little growth occurred came from the automotive sector (5.6%), while all other sectors expanded between 2 and 3 percent. The computer sector declined 14.6 percent in revenue, offset by the communications sector, which grew 1.5 percent. The consumer market did second best, with growth of 3.4 percent. The industrial, medical, and defense/aviation sectors all expanded between 2.4 percent and 2.9 percent. Surprisingly, there is a large proportion of the market that cannot be readily outsourced, as the assemblies are too low in volume and high in complexity, or contain proprietary information or designs that should remain in-house.
May 2016. Many electronics manufacturing companies are now looking at key strategies ahead of the next peak production season, to avoid issues experienced last year, to increase operational performance and flexibility to meet expected growth, and to streamline operations to reduce costs and increase competiveness. In 2016, this examination has become all about how to increase automation. In recent years, automation has become more cost effective and more processes are able to be automated. On the face of it, the business case for automation is compelling because labor is a fixed cost. Automated processes for assembly run faster than manual processes. Automation isn’t distracted on the job; it executes a consistent programmed operation so that performance variation is minimized. The calculation of ROI is often simply based on the investment cost of the automation divided by the rate of products produced per hour, which is compared to the manual process that it replaces.
April 2016. For only the third time in the past 13 years, combined revenue for the top 25 contract manufacturers (EMS providers and ODMs) failed to grow in 2015. Last year, top 25 revenue totaled $378 billion, down 0.2% from 2014 (Chart 1). Because the top 25 group accounts for 80% to 90% of revenue in the outsourcing space, this downward tick in revenue serves as an approximate indicator of how the contract manufacturing market behaved in 2015. Perhaps more disappointing than the lack of growth was the realization that the top 25 as a whole did not keep up with the global economy, which grew at a 3.1% rate in 2015. The top 25’s underperformance says something about the contract manufacturing space: It can no longer be relied on to outgrow the global economic baseline. Longer-term industry attractiveness is tempered by lack of near-term catalysts. This suggests that expectations have modestly risen, while the fundamental outlook could become more challenging due to slow growth in key end markets such as telecom infrastructure, computing, consumer/smart phones, and semi-cap equipment.
March 2016. MMI ranks the Top 50 EMS providers worldwide based on 2015 sales. MMI’s annual list of the 50 largest EMS providers worldwide has reached another milestone. In 2015, combined sales of the MMI Top 50™ EMS providers reached nearly $273 billion. While not all of this revenue is pure EMS—there is some ODM and other non-EMS business mixed in among the largest companies—the lion’s share of it is EMS, offering a clear indication of how much OEMs now depend on the EMS industry. With the results of MMI’s Top 50 survey now in, it can be said that 2015 was a modest growth year for the Top 50 as a whole. The group’s 2015 sales increased 3.2% from the previous year. This result should not be too surprising, given Apple’s launch of the iPhone 6 and the iWatch series, which increasingly contributed to revenue for a few EMS providers. The top 12 leading EMS maintained the same ranking as in the 2014 survey. These are solid companies and include Foxconn, Pegatron, Flextronics, Jabil Circuit, Sanmina, Celestica, New Kinpo Group, Wistron, USI and Plexus.
February 2016. MMI presents its annual summary of M&A transactions in the EMS industry. In 2015 the number of EMS industry mergers and acquisitions fell from the year before. M&A transactions that closed during 2015 totaled 26, down 7.1% from a revised count of 28 in 2014. Transaction totals have been in decline since a post recession high of 45 in 2010. The lackluster macro environment and associated uncertainties that followed the recession have not encouraged deal making. EMS providers made acquisitions to extend their service or supply chain capabilities. In 2015, this was the most popular type of deal, in contrast to the year before. Last year, there were 20 instances of EMS providers buying competitors’ operations to extend service or supply chain capabilities (marked S on the Scorecard), an increase from 10 the year before (Chart 2, p. 4). Back in the pre-recession days, capability deals were more commonplace. From 2002 to 2008, capability deals averaged 17.9 per year. As the industry matures, providers are seeking to enhance their service offerings and are feeling the need to acquire new capabilities.
January 2016. By all accounts and indicators, 2015 was a year of very low or no growth in the EMS industry—certainly for the top-tier suppliers. Mid-tier companies have fared better, with many firms taking advantage of acquisition opportunities and expanding services to other geographic regions for assemblies that customers require (a summary of 2015 M/A activity will be provided in the February issue of MMI). The EMS industry is undergoing significant consolidation, although this is not deterring new entrants from entering the market. The financial and structural advantages of outsourcing have been well proven for many years, as evidenced by very few OEM companies planning or investing in manufacturing automation any more, leaving the expertise of electronics production to their contract manufacturing partners. And more recently, this trend is starting to apply to new Asian OEM companies as ODMs and EMS companies line up to secure contracts to manufacture new hardware innovations from such established OEMs as Samsung, Sony, NEC, and Toshiba, which are engaging in more outsourcing every year.