When world recession struck last year, contract foundries were hit really hard, with utilization dropping as low as 30%, sending workers home, introducing single-shift days and 4-day weeks. Largest players in the field, Taiwanese TSMC, UMC were forced to live through all of these measures in order to stay in the black. Courtesy of DigiTimes, we learned that both TSMC and UMC are reporting utilization growing back to 50-60%, thanks to a large number of rushed orders by foreign contracting firms.

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If we look at a chart above, we see that in December ‘08, TSMC dipped as low as negative 31.5% compared to October, while second-tier foundry VIS crashed down to negative 42.1%. Looking at the stats right now, VIS is showing 16% growth compared to October 2008, UMC is showing negative 0.3% and TSMC is down 7.5%, but announcing a slew of rushed orders for March and April.

It will take couple of weeks to couple of months for these orders to become chips, but if contractors such as AMD, Intel, Microsoft, Sony, Nvidia, Texas Instruments, Philips, Qualcomm and numerous other players are now ordering chips, one cannot think about anything else but a recovery.

Some analysts estimate that semiconductor industry won’t recover until 2012, but more optimistic projections pitch 2009 and semiconductor industry as the first to return to black. According to DigiTimes story, this is slowly, but certainly happening. Will recession end during 2009? We certainly hope so.