Contract chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (NYSE:TSM), commonly abbreviated as TSMC, has had a good year in 2016. Its stock price is up 28% year to date, and it's expected to enjoy more than 13% revenue growth this year, as well as nearly 10% earnings-per-share growth for the year.
The company made a lot of good moves this year. Here are three of its best.
Winning all the A10 orders
In 2014, TSMC won all of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) A8 chip orders, which meant that every single iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus that was shipped included a TSMC-built applications processor. Considering that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were enormous successes for Apple, this translated into a nice win for TSMC.
In 2015, however, TSMC didn't win the entirety of Apple's A9 chip orders. In fact, numerous reports from the press and the analyst community pointed to TSMC only winning a minority allocation of those chips.
However, TSMC is believed to be the sole manufacturer of the A10 processors that power Apple's iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus smartphones. It's also believed to have won both the chip manufacturing orders, as well as the packaging orders for the A10. (This means more revenue share for TSMC.)
Broadening the business with 7-nanometer tech
TSMC is planning to begin generating revenue from its 10-nanometer chip-manufacturing technology in the first half of 2017, but that technology is expected to be short-lived and utilized by only a handful of customers. The next "major" technology from TSMC is expected to be its 7-nanometer technology, which promises performance, power, and area improvements over its 10-nanometer technology.
TSMC has said that this technology "has been adopted not only by high-end mobile customers, but also by high-performance computing customers for [graphics processing units], gaming, [personal computers] and tablet[s], virtual reality, server, FPGA, automotive, and networking applications."
Although it'll be a while before revenue from these design wins start rolling in -- expect the first revenue during the first half of 2018 -- TSMC's commentary points to strong execution in both the technology, as well as in securing a broad range of customers. It will be interesting to see just how much revenue growth it can drive, especially in applications beyond mobile, in the years ahead.
Staying strong in older technologies
Although much of the fanfare is around the latest manufacturing technologies from companies like TSMC, the reality is that a lot of the revenue and gross profit dollars that contract-chip manufacturers generate comes from older technologies. While there have been worries that less advanced chipmakers might begin to take share from TSMC in older technologies, like the 28-nanometer technology, TSMC has consistently managed to keep demand very high for such technologies.
"Our 28-nanometer capacity remained fully utilized and represented 24% of our wafer revenue in the third quarter," said TSMC CFO Lora Ho.
TSMC co-CEO C.C. Wei also said that demand for its 28-nanometer technology "has continued to be strong throughout this year and is expected to last through many years." When management was asked about potential competitive threats from tier-2 chip manufacturers for 28-nanometer business, co-CEO Mark Liu expressed confidence that the company could maintain market share in this technology generation.