Samsung, LG Display in 55-Inch LCD Duel
By Kim Yoo-chul
The two-way competition for a bigger share in the large liquid crystal displays (LCD) panels used in flat-screen TVs market got even more fierce after LG Display began its latest eighth-generation LCD plant, a response to Samsung's feat last year.
On Monday, LG Display started operating the line, using glass substrates measuring 2,200 millimeters by 2,500 millimeters, the perfect fit for 55-inch televisions.
LG spokeswoman Claire Ohm said the new facility, which is located in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, will have a monthly capacity of 83,000 sheets ― 32 inches, 47 inches and 55 inches ― by the end of the year.
The breakup by size is not known.
"Thanks to rising flat-screen TV demand in China driven by Beijing's 'Home Appliances to the Countryside' policy, we are positive about the outlook in the Chinese TV market," Ohm added.
LG Display, LG Electronics' flat-screen affiliate, has already spent some 2.53 trillion won, or $1.6 billion, to build the new line.
Analysts and industry watchers say that the main purpose of its huge investment is to win a bigger share in the 55-inch LCD panel market in a duel with its biggest rival, Samsung Electronics.
LG's newest line is optimized to produce the 55-inch LCD panels with an eye on efficiency; it can cut six 55-inch glass sheets at a time, meaning the company can save costs in production and ask for more from TV set makers.
"Now, the focus is being shifted to whether the 55-inch LCD panel will become a standardized format in the global LCD TV market," an analyst at Woori Investment & Securities said.
The world's No. 1 LCD panel maker, Samsung Electronics, has been manufacturing 52, 55 and 57-inch panels at its eight-generation line in Tangjeong, in South Chungcheong Province, since last year.
"The 55-inch pieces are our primary product," a Samsung Electronics spokesman said.
The Woori analyst added Japan's Sharp will fall victim to the strategies of Korean makers, as Sharp's eighth-generation line is optimized to produce less-efficienct 52-inch LCD panels.
According to a forecast by DisplaySearch, a market research firm, Samsung Electronics is expected to produce 170,000 55-inch LCD panels throughout 2009, while LG Display will roll out 165,000.
The prices for LCD TVs have been showing a slight rebound in recent months, helped by spending cutbacks by Taiwanese panel makers and inventory clearance.
Most of the global panel makers suffered from massive profit losses in the fourth quarter of 2008, as deepening macro-economic troubles in global economies put consumers' appetite for electronics-related products on hold.