The recent hike in prices of helium gas is likely to negatively affect the profitability of semiconductor companies.
According to the Korea Customs Service on Friday, helium gas import price was US$82,200 per a metric tonne in 2020, a 44% rise from 2019.
Helium gas are used as coolers during semiconductor and display panel production. They have other use in medical devices such as MRI.
In South Korea, 60% of helium gas are used in semiconductor production. The country is home to Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix.
The price increase is caused by a supply shortage from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the United States Geological Survey, production dropped 17% in 2020 from a year ago. Helium gas is produced in only a small number of countries including in the US, Qatar and Russia.
Prices will likely increase even more this year due to large demand for semiconductors. There is currently a shortage in semiconductor chips. According to IHS Markit, the chip shortage will cause a million less cars to be manufactured in the first quarter. There is a shortage for those used in notebooks, TVs and other IT devices as well.
Most semiconductor companies will be in full operation this year due to high demand, a person familiar with the matter said. Hellium gas has become scarce as Taiwan and China are expanding procuring the gas to protect their industries but South Korea is in a position that it has to buy them despite the high price, they added.