SAN FRANCISCO — China-based chip firms plan to lay out about $11 billion for capex in 2018, more than the combined total of European and Japanese firms, according to market research firm IC Insights.

China-based firms are forecast to account for 10.6% of the global total of semiconductor capex this year, which is expected to be about $103.5 billion, IC Insights said. China's projected total of $11 billion would be five times what China-based firms spent just three years ago in 2015, according to the firm.

IC Insights said that four Chinese companies are forecast to join the ranks of the semiconductor industry's major capital spenders as they equip and ramp up new fabs in 2018 and 2019, including memory suppliers XMC/YMTC, Innotron and JHICC, as well as pure-play foundry Shanghai Huali. These firms are slated to join China's SMIC, which has been a significant capital spender for several years.

The three biggest European chip firms have accounted a small share of the global semiconductor capex since transitioning to the fab-lite model in recent years. IC Insights expects their cumulative capex to amount to only about 4% of the global total this year, down from 8 percent as recently as 2005. By 2022, European chip firms are expected to account for only 3 percent of the global total of semiconductor capital spending, according to the firm.

Japanese chip makers are forecast to account for only 6 percent of the global semiconductor capex this year. By contrast, Japanese firms accounted for 22 percent of global semiconductor capex in 2005 and 51 percent in 1990, according to IC Insights.

Chinese semiconductor capital expenditure

— Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.