LAS VEGAS — Samsung Electronics lengthened its lead in semiconductor sales over second-ranked Intel in the first quarter, thanks to a continued boom in the memory market, according to market research firm IC Insights.

With $18.6 billion in chip sales in the first quarter, Samsung outsold Intel by 23 percent, IC Insights said. By comparison, in the first quarter of 2017, Intel still No. 1 in chip sales, 5 percent better than Samsung. 

That the pendulum has swung so far in Samsung's favor demonstrates how impactful the current memory chip boom has been on the entire semiconductor industry. When Samsung topped Intel last year in semiconductor sales based on a tight market for both DRAM and NAND flash memory, it marked the first time since 1993 that Intel did not lead in the semiconductor industry in sales over the course of a full year.

In the first quarter of this year, Samsung — as well as rival memory chip vendors Micron Technology and SK hynix — each registered more than 40 percent sales increases compared with the first quarter of 2017, IC Insights said.

Top 15 semiconductor sales leaders in millions of dollars
Source: IC Insights

The cumulative total sales for the top 15 chip vendors surged by 26 percent in the first quarter compared with the first quarter of 2017, IC Insight said. The chip industry as a whole registered a 20 percent year-over-year increase for the first quarter. 

Memory chips accounted for 83 percent of Samsung's semiconductor sales in the first quarter, up from 77 percent in the first quarter of 2017, IC Insights said. Samsung's memory chip sales accounted accounted for 71 percent of its semiconductor revenue in the first quarter of 2017, according to IC Insights.

 — Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.