TSMC lands big orders for mining ASICs from Bitmain

Taiwan semiconductor firms will see major revenue boosts from the global cryptocurrency mining craze in 2018, as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has landed sizable orders from Bitmain, China's leading Bitcoin ASIC designer, for fabricating mining chips, while Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) and TSMC-affiliated Global Unichip have shared the backend packaging and testing orders, according to industry sources.

The sources said despite warnings by governments and financial institutions of many countries against speculative trading of virtual currencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Ripple, the ensuing windfall profits have added fuels to the mining craze, leading to lingering robust market demand for Bitcoin mining ASICs or GPU chips for mining and prompting global supply chains to cash in on the lucrative business opportunities.

At the moment, China's Bitmain, Canaan Creative, and Ebang Communication are the world's top-3 suppliers of Bitcoin mining solutions in terms of shipments, with Bitmain alone commanding a 70% share of the global market for such miners.

Bitmain can not only design ASICs, but also supply mining machines and build mining grounds. The company has squeezed into TSMC's list of major customers by placing large-size orders with the foundry house for fabricating ASIC mining chips and AI (artificial intelligence) chips on 16nm FinFET process, industry sources said.

Bitmain's orders are enough to occupy 90% of TSMC's ASIC foundry capacity during off-peak season, with the remaining 10% booked by Canaan Creative. Bitmain's orders amount to 100,000 wafers monthly at TSMC, serving as a significant driver for the foundry house's revenue growth in 2018, the sources indicated.

Meanwhile, ASE and Global Unichip are also ready to fulfill orders from the two China customers for backend services. In addition, Taiwan suppliers of graphic cards including Asustek, Micro-Star International (MSI) and Gigabyte are also expected to benefit from the brisk market demand for such cards to support GPU-based mining machines in the first quarter of 2018, and they are moving to raise quotes for such cards, the sources added.