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Lam Research’s strategic investment in an advanced technology production facility is a significant boost to Penang’s electronics and electrical (E&E) ecosystem, and elevates Penang’s status in the world map of the semiconductor industry. A Fortune 500 company, Lam Research is a global innovative wafer fabrication equipment (WFE) player. With a revenue CAGR of 14% in 2014-2019, the company achieved an annual revenue of US$9.5 billion in 2019. The new Penang site will be complementing Lam Research’s existing production sites in the United States, Austria and South Korea.

Being one of the leaders in semiconductor capital equipment, Lam Research’s presence will complement Penang’s established regional hub position in the back-end high technology machinery and equipment and semiconductor assembly and testing. Lam Research is the first global leading WFE company that opted Malaysia as a manufacturing site. The addition of Lam Research will enable Penang to further expand its capability and enhance its relevancy in the global semiconductor industry.

Penang currently houses renown global semiconductor manufacturing equipment players, such as Keysight Technologies, National Instruments, Bruker Corporation, Agilent, VAT Engineering, Advanced Energy, just to name a few. In addition, Penang’s homegrown equipment companies have also emerged in the international arena and played critical roles in the development of Malaysia’s machinery and equipment industry, particularly in the E&E subsegment. Some notable local names include Vitrox, Pentamaster, SRM Integration, MI Technovation, Greatech Technology, UWC, Elsoft, MMS Ventures, among others.

Far-reaching impact to E&E ecosystem
Lam Research’s investment is expected to have far-reaching impacts in terms of supply chain localization opportunities, uplifting the skillset of technical workforce and high economic spill-over and multiplier effects. Given that Lam Research’s technology spans across many high-tech disciplines (such as chemistry, physics, surface science, materials science, engineering, software and robotics and control systems), its footprint in Penang intuitively will attract relevant vendors to follow suit and hence creating a more robust than ever E&E ecosystem in Penang.

2020 Fab Equipment Investment Projected to be at US$58 billion
On the industry outlook, according to SEMI, a global industry association that represents the electronics manufacturing and design supply chain, global semiconductor equipment sales is estimated to drop 10.5% year-on-year to US$57.6 billion in 2019 but stage a 5.5% year-on-year growth in 2020. Growth momentum is expected to continue in 2021, with global semiconductor equipment sales is forecasted to reach all-time high of US$66.8billion in 2021, driven by leading device manufactures’ investment in sub-10nm equipment, especially for foundry and logic. Separately, World Semiconductor Trade Statistics’ (WSTS) data estimated that global semiconductor sales will grow 5.9% and 6.3% in 2020 and 2021, respectively, with a market size of US$460 billion in 2021.

Zooming into SEMI’s forecast, WFE market (consisting of wafer processing, fab facility and mask/reticle equipment) is estimated to make a lion’s share of 87% of global total semiconductor equipment sales in 2019, implying that WFE is the key growth driver of the semiconductor equipment industry. In addition, SEMI’s World Fab Forecast Report projected that 2020 fab equipment investment to be at US$58 billion.

Penang, a major contributor to Malaysia’s E&E and machinery and equipment industries
In the local context, Penang undoubtedly is the key pillar to Malaysia’s external trade, whereby the trade surplus is largely driven by the E&E industry. Penang recorded a trade surplus of US$24 billion in Jan-Nov 2019, representing 77% of Malaysia’s total trade surplus for the period. Penang airport, being the largest trade gateway in Malaysia (export via Penang airport in Jan-Nov 2019: RM209 billion) further strengthens the fact that Penang is a major contributor to the country’s E&E export. On the investment front, Penang attracted RM31 billion of approved manufacturing investments from E&E and machinery and equipment industries during the period from 2014 – September 2019, representing 38% of Malaysia’s total approved investment in these two industries. While E&E products remain the backbone for Penang’s industry, machinery and equipment as well as medical devices are among the other key industries where Penang’s competitive edges lie.