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Samsung Loses Another Crown, This Time to TSMC

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Samsung has lost another crown. Shortly after Intel reclaimed its place atop the semiconductor market, TechNews reported that TSMC became the most valuable company in Asia with an 8.02 trillion New Taiwan Dollar ($262.75 billion) market cap.

That rising market cap arrived while Samsung continued to struggle with sluggish demand for its smartphones, display panels and memory products. The company's quarterly operating profits have been down 50-60% year-over-year for all of 2019, and unless the NAND and DRAM markets rebound, they might do the same in 2020.

TSMC's had a very different 2019. It counts many leading tech companies as its customers--the likes of AMD, Nvidia and Apple all source at least some of their chips from TSMC--and demand for its semiconductors has been high. That's especially true of its 7nm chips; its customers have reportedly placed their orders for 2020 already.

That's not to say TSMC went untested in 2019. The year actually started off with a catastrophe: the company discovered that a chemical contamination at its Fab 14 B resulted in the creation of at least 10,000 defective wafers. That didn't seem to slow down TSMC as much as expected, though, or at least it hasn't said as much publicly.

Later in the year, TSMC seemed poised to engage in a massive legal battle with GlobalFoundries, which alleged that it stole intellectual property in chips used by many of the companies we've already named, that could have serious ramifications for its customers. But the companies quickly reached a 10-year agreement instead.

Now the company seems to be in a strong position for 2020. It's continuing to invest in production of its 7nm chips, and it's also getting ready for the jump to 3nm chips by constructing a $19.5 billion fab and hiring some 8,000 engineers to work on those chips. Being crowned the most valuable company in Asia is just the start for TSMC.