PCB industry outlook
Brief analysis of macroeconomics
Due to the continued decline in the global economy, the IMF lowered the global GDP growth rate in 2022 to 2.9%, and forecast it to be 2.8% next year. The risk of economic recession in Europe and the United States has increased. China’s GDP is expected to grow by 3.0% in 2022, and economic recovery is expected in the second half of next year. It is estimated that China’s GDP will grow by 4.5% in 2023.
China’s CPI began to decline in October, PPI has shown negative growth for two consecutive months, and manufacturing PMI has also declined for two consecutive months and is below the line of expansion and contraction, reflecting that China’s consumption and production are weak, the economy continues to decline and there is a deflationary trend.
PCB industry trend analysis
PCB (Printed Circuit Board) is a key electronic component that supports the assembly of other electronic components and realizes circuit interconnection. It is called the “mother of electronic products” and plays an extremely important role in the electronics industry. The downstream applications of PCB mainly include computer, communication, consumer electronics, automotive electronics, industrial control medical, military aerospace and other fields.
According to the process structure, PCB mainly includes flexible board (FPC), rigid-flex board, single and double board, ordinary multi-layer, HDI, packaging substrate (IC carrier board) and other types. In 2021, the global PCB industry will achieve the largest growth rate in the past ten years, with a growth rate of about 24%.
However, due to the impact of the epidemic, economic downturn and other factors, the PCB market demand will continue to weaken from Q2 in 2022, and the growth rate will slow down significantly in the second half of the year.
According to Prismark data, in the first half of this year, the global PCB market was approximately US$42 billion, a year-on-year increase of 14.1%, and demand in the second half of the year is expected to be US$42.6 billion, a year-on-year decrease of 3.4%. But the annual growth rate will still be around 4.6%. From 2022 to 2026, the compound annual growth rate of global PCB output value is about 4.8%, and it will increase to US$101.5 billion by 2026.
The growth of global GDP, semiconductor and PCB industry shows a high degree of positive correlation, so the growth trend of GDP and semiconductor industry can also reflect the growth trend of PCB industry. According to the forecast of WSTS, a semiconductor market research organization, the semiconductor industry will experience negative growth of 9% and 8% in Q3 and Q4 in 2022, respectively, and is expected to decline by 4-6% in 2023.
On the positive side, affected by the continuous tightening of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, the global commodity prices and copper prices have fallen, which has driven the cost of PCB upstream raw materials to decrease, and the gross profit of enterprises has continued to improve.
In summary, based on the inertia of the economic downturn in the second half of this year, the uncertainty of global economic growth next year, and the decline in the semiconductor industry, the global PCB market demand in the first half of next year is likely to continue to weaken, and the turning point of industry recovery is expected to be between Q2 and Q3 in 2023 .
Current status and future development trend of China’s PCB industry
Before 2000, the combined output value of the three major regions of America, Europe and Japan accounted for more than 70% of the global PCB production value. However, in the past 20 years, the focus of the global PCB industry has been continuously shifting to Asia. A new pattern centered on mainland China and supplemented by other regions has gradually formed.
In 2021, China’s PCB output value will account for 54.6% of the global total output value, which is about 44.2 billion US dollars. It is estimated that China’s PCB output value will grow at a compound annual growth rate of about 5.6% from 2022 to 2026, reaching US$56 billion by 2026, accounting for 55.2% of the world’s total. China will continue to maintain the industry’s leading manufacturing center position.
The output value of the PCB industry in mainland China has increased from US$26.2 billion in 2014 to US$44.2 billion in 2021. Since 2014, the scale of PCB production in mainland China has been growing, and the year-on-year growth will reach 25% in 2021. With the deepening of the transfer of the PCB industry, the proportion of China’s PCB output value will further increase.
According to statistics, as of 2021, there are about 2,800 PCB companies in the world, and 2,372 PCB manufacturing companies in mainland China. China has formed a PCB industry cluster with the Pearl River Delta region and the Yangtze River Delta region as its core areas. According to CPCA statistics, the PCB industry will be distributed in 22 provinces and municipalities across the country in 2021, with a total of 2,372 enterprises.
PCB market opportunities in the new era
From the perspective of PCB product process structure, multilayer PCB, HDI, and FPC products account for more than 70% of the global PCB output value. These three products will still be the most important demand in the market in the future and the main direction for the continued growth of the PCB industry.
According to Prismark’s forecast, from 2021 to 2026, the compound annual growth rate of the output value of global multilayer PCB, HDI, and FPC is expected to be about 4.8%, 4.9%, and 4.2% respectively; in China, the proportion of multilayer PCBs in 2021 will reach 47.6% , single and double layer PCBs accounted for 15.5%; followed by HDI boards, accounting for 16.6%; flexible PCBs accounted for 15%, and packaging substrates accounted for a smaller proportion, accounting for 5.3%.
Compared with advanced PCB manufacturing countries such as Japan, the proportion of high-end printed circuit boards in China is still relatively low, especially in packaging substrates, high-end HDI, and high-layer PCBs.
FPC is widely used in communications, consumer electronics, automotive electronics, industry, military, aerospace and other fields, and its market demand is closely related to the demand for downstream terminal electronic products. From the perspective of the main application structure of FPC downstream, the global FPC output value is mainly concentrated in the communication and computer fields, of which communication accounts for 33.0%, and computers account for 28.6%.
Consumer electronics, mainly mobile phones, constitute the main contribution point of FPC output value. In the future, with the increasing volume of consumer electronic products such as communication electronics, electric vehicles, and wearable devices, the market demand for FPC will gradually increase.
Single-sided and double-sided PCBs and ordinary multi-layer PCBs
In 2021, the global output value of single-sided and double-sided PCBs will be 9.3 billion US dollars, and the output value of multi-layer PCBs will be 31 billion US dollars. It is estimated that the compound growth rates of single-sided and double-sided PCBs and multi-layer PCBs will reach 6.4% and 4.8% respectively from 2021 to 2026.
The HDI board is a high-density interconnection PCB. It is a circuit board with a relatively high line distribution density using micro-blind buried hole technology. It is characterized by “light, thin, short, and small”.
In recent years, benefiting from the expansion of the functions of smart terminals, the demand for smart phones, tablet PCs, VR and smart wearable devices has continued to grow, which has brought about incremental demand for HDI boards and a large market space. According to forecasts, the compound growth rate of HDI from 2021 to 2026 is 4.9%, and the global HDI board output value will reach 15 billion US dollars in 2026.
IC carrier board (packaging substrate)
The packaging substrate is developed on the basis of the HDI board. It is a substrate for packaging chips and provides multi-dimensional protection for chips such as reinforcement, support, and heat dissipation. According to relevant data, the global IC substrate output value will reach US$14.2 billion in 2021, and the compound growth rate from 2021 to 2026 is expected to be 9.7%. The overall market size will reach US$17.2 billion in 2026, which is the fastest growing PCB segment.
Market segmentation analysis of PCB application fields
The PCB industry is a fully competitive industry with low industry concentration. The leading company Pengding has a market share of about 7%, while CR5 and CR10 only account for 22% and 35% respectively. It is difficult to form an oligopolistic competition pattern.
Concentrated companies in subdivided fields are easier to grow bigger and stronger, and it is difficult for companies with decentralized businesses to form core competitive advantages. Generally, there is a scale effect in the manufacturing industry, but because PCB is a highly customized product, the production process of PCB is relatively long (more than 50 large and small processes), and eventually the marginal cost will start to increase after reaching a certain scale, which in turn makes Diseconomies of scale.
In the PCB downstream application market, computers, communications, and consumer electronics account for more than 66%. For new energy vehicles, packaging substrates, and servers/storage with higher compound growth rates in the future, the compound growth rate of the new energy vehicle segment is expected to exceed 30%; server storage and peripheral supporting PCBs are expected to grow by 8.6%.
The market research agency Canalys pointed out in the latest report that the total shipments of the global PC market in 2021 will reach 341 million units, an increase of 15% over 2020, but there will be a sharp decline in 2022. Especially in the third quarter of this year, global PC shipments fell by 18% to 69.4 million, of which notebook computer shipments were the most affected, down 19% year-on-year to 54.7 million units, and are expected to decline by more than 15% for the whole year.
With the rapid development of cloud computing and digital economy, especially in recent years, the epidemic has increased the demand for the Internet, and the demand for the PCB industry in the server and data storage industries has also increased rapidly.
The data shows that the output value of PCBs used in servers/data storage will be approximately US$7.2 billion in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 26%; the compound annual growth rate is expected to be 8.6% from 2021 to 2026. By 2026, the server PCB market will exceed USD 9.5 billion.
5G base stations will continue to grow. According to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, in 2021, China will add 654,000 new 5G base stations throughout the year. The number of 5G users in China exceeds 500 million, with a penetration rate of over 30%.
According to the Prismark report, the output value of PCBs used in communication infrastructure construction will be about US$8 billion in 2021, and the compound annual growth rate from 2021 to 2026 will be about 5.6%, and it is expected to reach US$9.2 billion by 2026.
According to a report released by IDC, smartphone shipments in 2021 are expected to reach 1.35 billion units, a year-on-year increase of 5.3%. In 2022, due to the epidemic and weak market consumer demand, smartphone shipments are expected to reach 1.08 billion units, a drop of more than 20%. Leading companies have significantly reduced orders.
For example, Apple and Xiaomi have lowered their demand by about 20% in the middle of the year. Samsung plans to continue to reduce production by 13% next year, and predicts that the CAGR of PCBs for mobile phones will be about 2.5% from 2021 to 2026.
By 2026, the output value of printed circuit boards used in smartphones will reach about 19.4 billion dollars. Competition in the mobile phone market presents a typical trend of high concentration (oligopoly competition), with the top 5 manufacturers Samsung, Xiaomi, Apple, OPPO, and Vivo occupying more than 70% of the market share.
In 2021, the global sales of electric vehicles will reach 5 million units, especially the growth rate of new energy vehicles in China will exceed 90%. From January to November 2022, the sales volume of new energy passenger vehicles in China will be 5.03 million units, a year-on-year increase of 99%. The market share of the top 5 companies such as BYD and Tesla does not exceed 40%, and automotive PCB manufacturers are also scattered.
Listed board manufacturers with a large proportion of automotive boards in Chinese PCB companies mainly include KINWONG and Wus Printed Circuit, Eaton, Olympic Circuit, Camelot Electronic, Xiehe, and Sihui Fuji, all of which have a market share of less than 4%. According to Prismark data, the global automotive PCB output value will reach US$9.7 billion in 2022.
Generally speaking, due to the increasing risk of economic recession, the epidemic and other factors, the demand in the PCB industry is relatively weak, and the inflection point of the PCB industry chain industry has not yet arrived. It is expected to come out of the trough around Q2 and Q3 in 2023, and it will still be maintained in the next few years as a whole.
In the segmented market, new energy vehicles, servers, packaging substrates and other fields are expected to continue to enhance the PCB market space.