EL SEGUNDO: Average pricing for Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) is expected to decline until the third quarter of this year, in concert with declining costs for a key PCB raw material: copper, according to iSuppli Corp.
In Asia, the primary market for PCB production and consumption, pricing for a key product that indicates market trends began to decrease in October. Contract pricing for this PCB in the second quarter is expected to fall to 15.3 cents per square inch, down 8.4 percent from 16.7 cents in October 2008. Pricing is expected to rebound slightly in the third quarter, rising 1.3 percent to 15.5 cents and will remain at that level in the fourth quarter.
The figure presents iSuppli’s estimate of Asian per-square-inch contract pricing trends for a PCB representative of market trends: the 8-layer, >=5/5 mils line width, 62 mil+/-10 percent thickness, FR4 PCB.
iSuppli: Average Asian Market Price for the 8 Layer, >=5/5 mils line width, 62 mil +/-10%, thickness, FR4 per square inch PCB (Pricing in U.S. Dollars)
“Weak demand is negatively impacting PCB demand,” said Jason Ma, director and senior analyst, pricing and competitive analysis for iSuppli. “However, PCB pricing trends now are being dictated by copper costs.”
Ma noted the price of copper reached a peak level of $4.10 per pound in the second quarter of 2008 and then began to drop, falling to $1.50 per pound in February. This drop, combined with falling pricing for another key raw material, laminate, have helped PCB suppliers to reduce costs.
PCB demand is expected to return as a factor driving PCB pricing in the third quarter, with a slight increase in sales helping to boost rates, Ma predicted.
Economic troubles cut PCB demand
Demand for PCBs has fallen significantly since the global economic crisis began. The major applications for PCBs are notebook PCs and consumer-oriented products such as mobile handsets and Flat Panel Displays (FPDs), all of which have been negatively impacted by the economic downturn.
Oversupply conditions have forced the PCB suppliers to tighten their belts while banks kept rigid control of their business loans. Moreover, the Chinese government is beginning the process of increasing its tax on corporate profits to 25 percent in 2012, up from 18 percent in 2008. Finally, China’s government established new environmental protection laws in 2008 that place new burdens on the PCB industry.
“This combination of factors is hurting PCB makers in China,” Ma noted. “Existing companies now must use their own financial resources to buy water recycling equipment, causing many small PCB factories to close. PCB suppliers have been forced to move their facilities to new manufacturing locations like Vietnam or India to set up their factories.”
In order to survive, Asian PCB makers must continue to cut costs, Ma said.