Natixis on global chip shortage, U.S.-China tech war

The global chip shortage is causing problems for multiple industries and shows no signs of abating, but don’t expect prices for all types of chips to shoot up, says the Asia-Pacific chief economist of research firm Natixis.

Car makers have been hit hardest by the shortage, but the crisis affects everything from gaming consoles to televisions.

But not all industries or products may suffer the same way. In fact, there might even be an oversupply of certain chips, according to Alicia Garcia-Herrero of Natixis.

“Those chips that for which I am expecting overcapacity, are the kind of lower-end chips,” she told CNBC on Thursday. “This is because China is entering that part of the supply chain very quickly with huge investment.”

In other words, Garcia-Herrero said on “Squawk Box Asia,” there will be a segmentation of prices.

“The lower end chips will have plummeting prices, very likely … But for the best ones — those that really are relevant for 5G and electric vehicles — we want. So these will have some inflationary consequences,” she said.

The ongoing shortage was partly driven by companies stockpiling as the pandemic swept across the world and supply fears grew. 

But geopolitics is playing a part too.

Amid the tech race between both giants, the U.S. last year placed restrictions on China’s biggest chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, barring it from getting advanced manufacturing gear, and making it harder to sell its finished products to companies with American ties. 

As a result, some companies decided to stockpile essential chips ahead of those restrictions.

Garcia-Herrero said that those geopolitical risks will not go away. Both the U.S. government and the tech sector have pushed to boost the country’s semiconductor manufacturing capabilities as a hedge against this risk. While some U.S. companies design their own chips, currently the vast majority of the world’s chips are manufactured in Taiwan, South Korea and China.

“This is the problem that adds to the complications of the inflation — that the most valuable part of the supply chain in the U.S. is going to face a lot of geopolitical risks … and this is not going to change,” she said.

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