TSMC Posts Q1’24 Results: 3nm Revenue Share Drops Steeply, but HPC Share Rises

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. this week released its financial results for Q1 2024. Due to a rebound in demand for semiconductors, the company garned $18.87 billion in revenue for the quarter, which is up 12.9% year-over-year, but a decline of 3.8% quarter-over-quarter. The company says that in increase in demand for HPC processors (which includes processors for AI, PCs, and servers) drove its revenue rebound in Q1, but surprisingly, revenue share of TSMC’s flagship N3 (3nm-class) process technology declined steeply quarter-over-quarter.

“Our business in the first quarter was impacted by smartphone seasonality, partially offset by continued HPC-related demand,” said Wendell Huang, senior VP and chief financial officer of TSMC. “Moving into second quarter 2024, we expect our business to be supported by strong demand for our industry-leading 3nm and 5nm technologies, partially offset by continued smartphone seasonality.”

In the first quarter of 2024, N3 wafer sales accounted for 9% of the foundry’s revenue, down from 15% in Q4 2023, and up from 6% in Q3 2023. In terms of dollars, TSMC’s 3nm production brought in around $1.698 billion, which is lower than $2.943 billion in the previous quarter. Meanwhile, TSMC’s other advanced process technologies increased their revenue share: N5 (5 nm-class) accounted for 37% (up from 35%), and N7 (7 nm-class) commanded 19% (up from 17%). Though both remained relatively flat in terms of revenue, at $6.981 billion and $3.585 billion, respectively.

Generally, advanced technology nodes (N7, N5, N3) generated 65% of TSMC’s revenue (down 2% from Q4 2023), while the broader category of FinFET-based process technologies contributed 74% to the company’s total wafer revenue (down 1% from the previous quarter).

TSMC itself attributes the steep decline of N3’s contribution to seasonally lower demand for smartphones in the first quarter as compared to the fourth quarter, which may indeed be the case as demand for iPhones typically slowdowns in Q1. Along those lines, there have also been reports about a drop in demand for the latest iPhones in China.

But even if A17 Pro production volumes are down, Apple remains TSMC’s lead customer for N3B, as the fab also produces their M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max processors on the same node. These SoCs are larger in terms of die sizes and resulting costs, so their contribution to TSMC’s revenue should be quite substantial.

“Moving on to revenue contribution by platform. HPC increased 3% quarter-over-quarter to account for 46% of our first quarter revenue,” said Huang. “Smartphone decreased 16% to account for 38%. IoT increased 5% to account for 6%. Automotive remained flat and accounted for 6%, and DCE increased 33% to account for 2%.”

Meanwhile, as demand for AI and HPC processors will continue to increase in the coming years, TSMC expects its HPC platform to keep increasing its share in its revenue going forward.

“We expect several AI processors to be the strongest driver of our HPC platform growth and the largest contributor in terms of our overall incremental revenue growth in the next several years,” said C.C. Wei, chief executive of TSMC.

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