Experiencing an oversupply over the entire year of 2018, the global NAND Flash market continues to face excess capacity this year as the demand outlook for notebooks, smartphones, servers and other end products remains weak, reports DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce. NAND Flash manufacturers have slowed down the capacity expansion by cutting capex in 2019, aiming to moderate the oversupply by limiting the bit output growth.

South Korean manufacturers have taken initiatives to cut their NAND Flash capex due to the worsening oversupply in 2018, says DRAMeXchange. Even though the total capex in the whole NAND Flash industry has been cut by nearly 10%, the oversupply has continued. Looking ahead to 2019, U.S.-based manufacturers would also lower their semiconductor capex, and the total capex in the global NAND Flash industry is expected to be $22 billion, about 2% YoY lower than in 2018.

Influenced by the adjustments in capacity expansion, 92/96-layer 3D NAND products would only account for about 32% of the industry’s total output by the end of 2019, while the portion of 64/72-layer products remains over 50%, although the major manufacturers have entered the mass production of 92/96-layer 3D NAND since the fourth quarter of 2018. As the manufacturers slow down capacity expansion and migration to advanced process, the bit output growth of NAND Flash is expected to be around 38% in 2019, significantly lower than over 45% in 2018.

As for the capacity adjustments of manufacturers, DRAMeXchange notes that Samsung’s NAND Flash bit output growth is expected to be around 35%, considering the following two factors. First, Samsung would continue to reduce its production capacity for 2D NAND. Second, the operating capacity would also decrease compared with the end of 2018, since the 92-layer process requires more space in the fab. The slowdown in bit output growth would have great impacts on the global NAND Flash production, because Samsung's share in the NAND Flash market is about 30%.

SK Hynix and Toshiba/Western Digital also have a chance to see smaller bit output growth. The two companies have respectively new M15 fab and Fab 6, but would also be affected by the production reduction plan or capacity transfer to previous-generation process. Therefore, DRAMeXchange has revised the forecast of their annual bit output growth to less than 50% and 35%, down from previous forecast of 50% and 40%, considering the weak demand outlook.

Micron's new fab in Singapore will not officially enter mass production until 2020, so the company’s wafer capacity per month in 2019 will remain flat when compared to 4Q18. Intel plans to reach a full load capacity in its Dalian fab, but does not have other capacity expansion plan. The joint bit output of Micron and Intel would grow by nearly 40% in 2019, noticeably lower than 45% in 2018.

In terms of the NAND Flash price trends for 2019, the quotes for various product lines would witness apparently steeper drop than DRAMeXchange’s previous forecasts, indicating the excess inventories faced by manufacturers. DRAMeXchange expects a quarterly decline of 20% in 1Q19, higher than previous forecast of 10%, and a further decline of nearly 15% QoQ in 2Q19. For 2H19, the price decline may be slightly moderated considering the coming of peak season, but prices would continue to fall by around 10% each quarter. It remains to be seen whether manufacturers are able to further limit their bit output growth. In sum, the average NAND Flash price would decrease by nearly a half in 2019, according to the calculation of DRAMeXchange.