Hard drive supplies back to pre-flood levels, but prices aren't

Hard drive supplies back to pre-flood levels, but prices aren'tLast October, flooding in Thailand took a huge bite out of hard disk drive supplies, taking out about a quarter of the world's HDD manufacturing capacity. The impact of that disaster has passed, and supply levels are back to near where they were before last October's disaster. But while the flood waters have long since receded, drive prices haven't fallen nearly as much—as InfoWorld's Woody Leonhard reports, retail hard drive prices are still about 75 percent higher than they were before the flood and show no signs of coming down. And the manufacturers are posting healthy profits as a result.

According to IHS iSuppli, the flood severely curtailed shipments of hard drives in the last quarter of 2011, which were down by 29.1 percent from the 174 million sold by the industry from July to September of 2011. By the end of the first quarter of 2012, shipments were just 16.6 percent lower. However, iSuppli reports, "the Average Selling Prices (ASPs) in the post-flood time frame were approximately 28% higher than in the pre-flood period in both quarters."

That's because PC manufacturers, who buy the largest percentage of disk drives, have locked in their prices with long-term contracts, according to Leonhard. And while the HDD manufacturers have dealt with tight supply during rebuilding, they've had fewer drives to sell through other channels—such as retail. That drove the price of drives up initially as much as 300 percent.

The tightening has eased since then. But hard drive manufacturers are still shipping fewer drives. For example, in an earnings call on April 26, Western Digital CEO John Coyne noted that the Thai floods "knocked out almost 90 percent of WD's slider availability and 60 percent of WD drive assembly capacity and a substantial portion of the industry supply chain," but that Western Digital and its partners had "reached the point where we now have the capability to adequately meet anticipated customer demand in the current quarter and beyond." Western Digital shipped 44.2 million hard drives in the first quarter of 2012, and had a record net profit of $483 million—a 16 percent profit margin on its $3.04 billion in sales. Seagate, whose facilities weren't directly impacted by the flood, saw a 25 percent profit margin of $1.146 billion—also a record profit.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: HDDs, Seagate, Western Digital

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