Over a year ago, Intel surrendered its title as the world's biggest chip supplier by sales to Samsung, which was able to take advantage of a prolonged shortage of memory chips used in servers and smartphones. But the Santa Clara, California-based company is set to retake the top spot in semiconductor sales in 2019 as the market for memory chips continues to cool down, according to market researcher IC Insights.
Samsung is far more dependent on memory chips than Intel, with roughly 80 percent of its semiconductor sales falling into that category last year, according to IC Insights. Samsung, Micron Technology and other memory suppliers are starting to suffer as server and smartphone demand is dampened. NAND sales have been in decline since early last year, while average DRAM prices have plummeted since since the fourth quarter of 2018.
The memory market tends to bust after it booms and boom after it busts, as component shortages lead to production increases that result in surpluses as demand dies down over time. Memory chip sales are projected to slide around 24 percent in 2019. That could drag down the semiconductor industry's sales by 7 percent to $468 billion, down from more than half a trillion dollars of revenue last year, according to IC Insights.
The decline will drag down Samsung's annual sales by around 20 percent over the next year. Last year, the company's semiconductor sales surged 19.2 percent to $78.5 billion, but that growth will be wiped out before the end of the year. Samsung's sales are forecast to fall 19.7 percent to $63.1 billion this year, according to IC Insights. Intel is projected to report annual sales of $70.6 billion, up marginally from $69.9 billion last year.