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Taipei, Dec. 4 (CNA) A 20 percent increase in the purchase of semiconductor production equipment in the third quarter helped Taiwan regain its status as the world’s biggest semiconductor equipment market in the world, leapfrogging China.

Taiwan’s semiconductor equipment purchases during the period rose 21 percent from a quarter earlier and 34 percent from a year earlier to US$3.9 billion, according to data from SEMI, a global industry association that serves the electronics industry supply chain.

That vaulted Taiwan into the top spot ahead of the second-quarter leader China, which purchased US$3.44 billion in semiconductor equipment in the quarter, up 2 percent from a quarter earlier, but down 14 percent from a year earlier, SEMI figures showed.

Taiwan was ranked third in semiconductor equipment purchases throughout 2018, behind South Korea and China.

But it rose to first in the first quarter of 2019 and second in the second quarter largely because of an aggressive expansion of capacity and development of new processes by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC).

TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker with a more than 50 percent share in the global market, is developing sophisticated 7 nanometer, 5nm and 3nm processes that require big investments in equipment able to achieve the miniaturization demanded by the new technologies.

After launching mass production of the 7nm process last year, TSMC is scheduled to start commercial production of the 5nm and 3nm technologies in 2020 and 2022, respectively.

According to a market estimate, TSMC alone had capital expenditure of about NT$98.12 billion (US$3.21 billion) in the third quarter.

For 2019 as whole, the company estimated capital expenditure at between US$14 billion and US$15 billion, the highest level in the company’s history.

The chipmaker said its capex for 2020 could stay at a similar level.

After Taiwan and China, North America took third place in the rankings after purchasing US$2.49 billion in semiconductor equipment in the third quarter, up 47 percent from a year earlier and up 96 percent from a year earlier, SEMI said.

South Korea came in fourth with purchases of US$2.2 billion, down 15 percent from a quarter earlier and down 36 percent from a year earlier.

In the third quarter, semiconductor equipment shipments worldwide totaled US$14.86 billion, up 12 percent from a quarter earlier but down 6 percent from a year earlier, SEMI said. (World News)