(Repeats for wider distribution) By Stephen Nellis, Josh Horwitz and Hyunjoo Jin SAN FRANCISCO/SHANGHAI, March 11 (Reuters) - Qualcomm Incis struggling to keep up with demand for its processorchips used in smartphones and gadgets, as a chip shortage thatfirst hit the auto industry spreads across the electronicsbusiness, industry sources told Reuters. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the world's largestsmartphone maker, is experiencing a shortage of Qualcomm'sapplication processors, the heart of smartphones, two people atsuppliers for the South Korean giant told Reuters. Demand for Qualcomm's chips has soared in the past months asAndroid phone makers seek to win over customers abandoningphones produced by Huawei Technologies Co Ltd due toU.S. sanctions. Qualcomm has found it hard to meet thishigher-than-expected demand, in part due to a shortage of somesubcomponents used in its chips. One person at a Samsung supplier said a Qualcomm chipshortage was hitting production of mid- and low-end Samsungmodels. The second person, at another supplier, said there was ashortage of Qualcomm's new flagship chip, the Snapdragon 888,but did not say whether this was affecting the manufacturing ofSamsung's high-end phones. A Samsung Electronics spokesman declined to comment. AQualcomm spokesman pointed to public comments by executives onWednesday in which they reiterated they believe they can hit afiscal second quarter sales forecast given in February. Separately, a senior executive at a top contractmanufacturer for several major smartphone brands told Reuters itwas facing a shortage of a range of components from Qualcomm andwould cut handset shipments this year. The executive spoke oncondition of anonymity. Last month, Lu Weibing, a vice president for Chinese handsetmaker Xiaomi, lamented the chip crunch. "It's not a shortage,it's an extreme shortage," he wrote on Weibo, China'sTwitter-like social network. A surge in demand for consumer electronics has driven aglobal chip shortage that has idled car factories. The shortagehas so far centered largely on chips made using older technologyrather than the advanced phone processors Qualcomm designs. But Qualcomm's constraints show how problems in one area ofthe complex chip supply chain can bleed into others and howfast-changing market dynamics can trip up chip companies thatmust set mass production plans years in advance. "We still have our demand basically higher than supply,"Qualcomm incoming Chief Executive Cristiano Amon told investorsduring the company's annual meeting on Wednesday. Qualcomm's flagship application processor, the Snapdragon888, is still new. Key parts of it come from SamsungElectronics' separate chipmaking division and use a new5-nanonmeter manufacturing process that is hard to scale upquickly. A Samsung factory in Texas, which makes some of Qualcomm'sradio frequency transceivers, was also forced to halt operationslast month due to power shortages caused by winter storms,though it is unclear whether the effects of that stoppage haveyet trickled down to smartphone makers. OLDER TECHNOLOGY Qualcomm's entire lineup of application processors containpower management chips made with older technology by companiesincluding China's Semiconductor Manufacturing InternationalCorporation and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. "You need a full kit," said Stacy Rasgon, an analyst withbrokerage Bernstein. "If you can't get them, you can't buildwhatever it is you want to build. Supply chains are global andvery tightly integrated. It's set up for efficiency, but it'sless resilient." Qualcomm is directing supply of these power management chipstowards its highly profitable Snapdragon 888 applicationprocessors to match what Samsung's foundries can build, but thatis hurting supplies of lower-end Qualcomm applicationprocessors, sources said. China's Xiaomi procures the majority of its chipsfrom Qualcomm and Taiwan's MediaTek Inc. PANIC BUYING The chip shortage, which has prompted panic buying, isfurther squeezing capacity and driving up costs of even thecheapest components of nearly all microchips, industry expertssaid. For instance, a commonly-used microcontroller-unit chip fromSTMicroelectronics originally priced at $2 now sellsfor $14, according to Case Engelen, CEO of Titoma, a contractdesigner and manufacturer. Simon Wan, co-founder of the Chinese robotic vacuum cleanerbrand Roborock, said the company's chip suppliers are asking forlarger deposits on chip orders. He's paying to ensure stock. "Everyone is placing orders like crazy, when in fact theycan't even use up all their chips," said Wan, who declined toname his chip suppliers. Smaller companies are hurting more. Fabien Gaussorgues, who runs an electronics factory in thesouthern Chinese city of Dongguan, said supply issues haveworsened since December. His company was on track to mass produce a smart-home devicedesigned by an overseas client before the Chinese New Year. Buta shortage of key chipsets from Japan's Murata delayedthe launch by three weeks, he said, forcing him to eventuallyuse a slightly weaker chipset as a substitute. Murata did notrespond to request for comment. Meanwhile, some of his other clients have delayed projectsindefinitely. REUTERS
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