Quake may affect tech industry for six months, says analyst

Memory chips, chip packaging and other products will see disruptions in Japan, research head says

World technology hardware supplies will take as long as six months to resume normal flows following disruptions from last week's massive earthquake in Japan, a lead Bank of America Merrill Lynch researcher said on Wednesday.

The magnitude 9.0 quake and deadly tsunami on Friday will prompt manufacturers to reexamine supplies in Japan, then look for outside suppliers if needed and finally sort out component mismatches resulting from deals with new vendors, said Daniel Heyler, the investment bank's head of global semiconductor research.

The quake damaged some Japanese tech suppliers, while knock-on power shortages and transportation snags have hurt others.

Recovery could easily be a two-quarter process even if there's some electricity and factories get running again, Heyler said at a technology conference in Taipei. Inventories should hold for four to six weeks, he said.

BT substrates, used in chip packaging, will be hit particularly hard, the New York-based firm believes, as Japan makes some 90 percent of the world's supply and the top two vendors have quit taking orders.

Spare parts in numerous tech hardware manufacturing categories will also slow down, he said.

Memory chips prices are already soaring, but Heyler said he did not expect a DRAM supply crisis as there's enough in the supply chain now. He anticipated a more pronounced influence on NAND flash chips for cameras and smartphones. Memory shortages could prompt makers of PCs or electronics to use fewer chips, which would compromise performance but keep shipments on schedule.

Other impacts on end users are too early to tell, Merrill Lynch believes.

"It's going to be choppy," he told reporters after a conference speech. "It's all about Japan's recovery and about finding stuff elsewhere. It's a more complicated process than people think."

On the brighter side, many of the major hardware material suppliers are in southern Japan, which was relatively unaffected by the earthquake north of Tokyo.

Raw material for semiconductors and touchscreen panels will also slow after the quake, other analysts have said. Consumer electronics manufacturers in Taiwan, a major tech manufacturing hub, are nervously checking with suppliers in Japan about shortages.

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Tags consumer electronicsDaniel HeylerComponentsMerrill Lynch

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Ralph Jennings

IDG News Service
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