Japan quake sparks panic buying, delays iPad 2

The earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan has sparked panic buying of semiconductors and components, as supplies run low after flash memory and chip makers including Toshiba, Sony and Fujitsu were forced to shut their plants.

Component shortages could also delay the launch of Apple's iPad 2 tablet computer in some regions of the world. Five parts of the device are made in Japan and could be affected by the disaster, market research company IHS iSuppli said on Thursday.

Apple has already delayed launching the gadget in Japan, to "focus on the recovery following the recent disaster," the firm said.

Japan produces more than 40 per cent of the world's NAND flash memory used by devices including smartphones, tablet PCs and displays. The country has 130 semiconductor fabrication lines in 53 locations, and outages caused by the quake could trigger a wave of worldwide shortages in key components.

"Many electronic original equipment manufacturers worldwide could be engaging in panic buying of semiconductors and electronic components," IHS iSuppli reported, adding that some distributors have reported "a surge in orders" from customers anticipating supply problems.

IHS iSuppli says that suppliers that have halted production are unlikely to resume until the risk of further earthquakes recedes.

Electronics giant Toshiba reported on Thursday that its liquid crystal display plant in Fukaya would not resume production for around a month, after damage was caused to the facility by the magnitude 8.9 quake.

Hitachi has reported a similar period of closure for one of its LCD facilities, while Panasonic has said it will have to close its factory in Chiba prefecture, close to the capital Tokyo, after it sustained damage in the disaster.