In Malaysia's Silicon Valley, fortunes flip as virus wrecks trade war gains

PENANG, Malaysia (Reuters) – Tech firms at Malaysia’s a person-time Silicon Valley of the East, swimming in orders from clients fleeing trade war-strike China, have found fortunes turn yet again in the place of just a calendar year as the coronavirus outbreak cuts them off from Chinese suppliers.

FILE Picture: A basic look at of Penang skyline, Malaysia, Sept. 20, 2019. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Picture

Semiconductor test devices company Pentamaster Corp Bhd (PMAS.KL) observed its shares more than double previous year as profits surged by about a fifth – the steepest in its 29-12 months existence – as the company grew to become a refuge from Sino-U.S. import tariffs.

But then China despatched workers home to slow the virus, stifling provides of parts and material further more upstream. Pentamaster identified as alternate sources in Japan, South Korea, Germany and Italy, only to locate the motion had left them in the lurch as well.

The organization has since reduced its 2020 profits development outlook to flat from double digits, when its inventory has fallen much more than 10% considering that China in late January locked down the virus epicenter, Wuhan.

“Even if you supply from yet another country, the other nation also is dependent on China,” mentioned Pentamaster Government Chairman Chuah Choon Bin.

Pentamaster’s predicament is echoed throughout Malaysia’s coastal state of Penang, a single of the world’s greatest electronics and electrical hubs, which had been shedding business enterprise to China for the earlier 10 years till the trade war sparked a revival.

Dwelling to factories owned by Intel Corp (INTC.O) and Broadcom Inc (AVGO.O) along with several other companies that supply tech majors which includes Apple Inc (AAPL.O), the condition accounts for about 8% of global back again-finish semiconductor output.

Inbound expense attained a historic higher very last yr. This year, nonetheless, the intention is just a 3rd of that, at about $1.2 billion – while that is thanks to the life cycles of investments relatively than the virus, the point out federal government said.


The roller-coaster experience illustrates how immediately and broadly the virus is modifying fortunes all-around the entire world.

Even though Penang corporations observed history revenue very last calendar year from buyers trying to find to curb reliance on China and escape U.S. tariffs, they by themselves relied on China for as substantially as 60% of components and elements with the relaxation coming from Europe or in other places in Asia.

Analysts and area firms said the virus’ sales affect would be acute in the April-June time period when stockpiles run out. Even though many firms have warned of delays, some have noticed orders surge as prospects proceed to seek suppliers outside of China.

“Good news: Merchandise transfers from China are top to much more quotation requests and purchase overflow,” mentioned Goh Guek Eng, running director at semiconductor goods assembler Hotayi Electronic. “Bad news: Supplies are not coming in from China.”

Hotayi resources 60% of parts such as printed circuit boards and multi-layer ceramic capacitors from China, for shoppers which include Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS), LG Electronics Inc (066570.KS) and Sharp Corp (6753.T).

Its profits soared 40% final calendar year. Goh explained its 20% target this 12 months could be at hazard thanks to the supply concerns, which could transform important in a single to two months’ time and poorly strike generation.

Pentamaster buys most of its elements such as motors and sensors from Japan, Europe and China – the latter generating up 20% to 30%. In the previous handful of months, it has changed the design of some products to accommodate components from outdoors China, Chuah reported.

“We’re in a position to get supplies but the direct time is long – two to 3 months from Europe,” he said, when compared with two to three weeks from any where under usual conditions.

Analysts said other corporations most likely afflicted by the offer disruption include things like electronics producing expert services companies VS Market Bhd (VSID.KL) and ATA IMS Bhd (ATAI.KL) as they count on China for up to 30% of parts and content. Neither responded to Reuters’ requests for remark.

Semiconductor corporation Inari Amertron Bhd (INAR.KL), whose radio frequency factors are used in smartphones which include Apple’s iPhones, might have a weak second fifty percent soon after the U.S. agency flagged slowing generation and demand in China, Malaysia’s AmInvestment Bank said.

Inari told Reuters the virus had certainly experienced an influence on its provide chain but “probably less than the market place feared” as the circumstance in China was bettering.

“We hope our general performance to be in line with the total advancement, resilience or lack thereof, in the worldwide semiconductor market place,” stated Vice Chairman Tan Seng Chuan.

Globetronics Engineering Bhd (GNIC.KL), a agreement manufacturer of semiconductor-based mostly items, explained to Reuters it did not right resource from China but that there was a smaller danger to its oblique source chain.

“We had beforehand forecast the yr above calendar year advancement for all semiconductors to be 5.5% in 2020,” said Kevin Anderson, senior analyst for electricity semiconductors at consultancy Omdia. With the virus, “now we feel the selection could be from -20% (worst case) up to 2.5% (most effective scenario), with a most most likely of -3%”.

“All this depends extremely substantially on affect on the demand aspect as the virus spreads all around the environment and how quickly the electronics offer and logistics chains get well.”

Qdos, which tends to make adaptable printed circuit boards and caters to 5 of the world’s 10 greatest smartphone makers, lower its gross sales progress outlook to “the very low tens” from 20% forecast very last 12 months, said Team Main Government Jeffrey Hwang.

“The provide chain in electronics and semiconductors is seriously extended, so 1 way or a further you contact China,” mentioned Hwang, whose business also has a manufacturing facility in the Chinese city of Xiamen.

“China is a massive source chain that has served the environment actually nicely, so organizations will not stop likely to China fully but possibly they will reduce down on dependence on China alone.”

Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Liz Lee Editing by Christopher Cushing

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