Switch follows recent breakup of LCD joint venture with Samsung
By Kim Yoo-chul
Sony is increasingly relying on LG Display to meet its needs for 3D flat screens, after Samsung Electronics bought out the Japanese firm’s share in their joint venture and terminated the partnership, LG sources said Tuesday.
Sony is buying more of LG’s film-based 3D screens used in Sony’s popular Bravia TVs.
“LG Display is shipping more film-based 3D screens to Sony," one source who is directly involved with the matter told The Korea Times.
The LG-Sony collaboration comes at a time when the penetration rate of its film-based 3D panels will rise over 50 percent.
It marks a switch for Sony from its reliance on Samsung’s battery-powered 3D technology. LG is pressing on with the cheaper film-based 3D technology and undercutting Samsung.
“For cash-strapped Sony, LG’s price-competitive 3D panels are the right cost-saving choice,” said a fund manager from a Europe-based investment bank.
Sony has been increasing the number of the conventional LCD TV panels it buys from LG Display.
LG is doubling production for the Japanese firm’s LCD panel needs, with orders for Samsung declining.
“Considering Sony’s aggressive drive for outsourcing in flat screens, LG will likely receive more orders. It is better-positioned for product commitment, on-time delivery and pricing than Taiwanese flat-screen suppliers,” said the LG source.
LG Electronics Chief Technology Officer Ahn Seung-kwon said the goal to become the world’s biggest 3D TV maker by the end of this year is “definitely possible.” Hong Ji-eun, Sony spokeswoman, declined to comment. LG Display also declined to confirm about the issue.
LG expects the global demand for 3D televisions to surpass 40 million by the end of this year out of 220 million for the total flat-screen demand, increasing its investment to boost the output of its premium flat screens, helped by a constructive business partnership with Sony.
“Major Japanese TV companies such as Panasonic displayed their latest 3D TVs, using LG’s film-based 3D technology at the recent technology exhibition in Las Vegas,” the source added.
The company’s panels have been adopted by Toshiba, Philips, Vizio and leading Chinese TV manufacturers, according to LG Display.
Samsung’s 1,080-pixel technology requires special battery-powered 3D glasses.
LG’s film-based 3D technology uses 540 pixels, requiring much cheaper eyewear. Whether it will become the Sony’s key supplier for organic-light-emitting diode (OLED) panels is another much-awaited issue as Jeong unveiled more details about that business.
OLED TVs are seen as the next major revenue source.
The allure of large, high-quality super-thin TVs could encourage consumers to pay a premium for sets using OLED technology, experts say.
LG Display plans to invest some 400 billion won this year to prepare to mass produce OLED displays to replace the current industry mainstream of LCDs, probably from 2014.
“As Sony has already put LG Display on a list of key suppliers, future talks will cover its OLED panel outsourcing from the latter half of this year,” said an LG executive who is also familiar with the LG-Sony issue.
He added that LG Group’s display-making affiliate will start the production of OLED panels for TVs from July with an initial monthly shipment of 48,000 55-inch sheets.
“Before making decisions for OLED panels, LG Display will look into ways of making various variations,” he said. But he declined to comment on whether LG will supply OLED panels to Sony.