Korean firms nervous over OLED race
Sony confirms 3D panel deal with LG
By Kim Yoo-chul
Korea is being pressured to cement its current leadership in the new wave of display technology amid the rapid rise of Japan and China in futuristic screens, Korea’s biggest display lobby group said Wednesday.
Major display makers are moving toward thinner and brighter organic-light emitting diode (OLED) displays to find new growth engines amid the saturation of demand for conventional liquid crystal display (LCD) products.
Thanks to its myriad of merits, OLED represents the future, representing a huge growth opportunity in coming years with Samsung dominating the sector.
``Should Korea face stiffer competition with Japanese and Chinese companies in the OLED race, the former will face a great challenge,’’ said Cho Soo-in, the head of the Korea Display Industry Association (KDIA).
In a press conference in downtown Seoul, Cho, who is also chief executive of Samsung Mobile Display, said the global demand for LCDs is shrinking with the display sector seeing a paradigm change in flat screens.
``People are saying Japanese part makers are declining. However, they still have a competitive edge in key sources and materials used in OLED displays. Anyone closely monitoring the situation would recognize this,’’ he said.
``China is vowing to join the race for OLEDs after the country decided to financially support for a recently-launched consortium comprising of 19 Chinese firms,’’ he told reporters.
``OLED products will be coming out in China from next year. We are seeing that the strong intent from China toward OLEDs is another threat.’’
While the OLED market is relatively small compared to the massive LCD segment, the new technology has the potential for faster growth given its emerging status.
Global OLED shipments are set to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 29 percent from 2011 to 2015, compared to 5.8 percent for LCDs, according to market research firms.
KDIA plans to increase the portion of displays out of the total export volume to 15 percent from the current 6 by investing more for the new displays.
``It’s true that the outlook for flat screens is dim hit by a fall in LCD prices and increasing output by Chinese players. But Korea is better positioned to keep its current lead,’’ Cho told reporters.
IHS iSuppli, a market research consultancy, said the spinoff of its LCD operations into a new legal entity called Samsung Display from Samsung Electronics will boost its short-term edge in the OLED business.
The next move for Samsung Display may be a merger with Samsung Mobile Display ― a joint venture between Samsung Electronics and Samsung ― that makes both LCD and active matrix (AM) OLED displays.
``Currently, Samsung doesn’t have a plan to produce OLED screens in China for fear of a technology leak as Korea is the only country in the world that can fully handle OLED screens,’’ said Cho.
LG admits deal with Sony
In a separate meeting, new LG Display CEO and the KDIA Vice Chairman Han Sang-beom confirmed a previous report in The Korea Times that LG has begun shipping its film-based 3D panels for televisions to Sony of Japan.
``Sony has released 32-inch and 42-inch 3D televisions using LG Display’s film-based 3D technology. LG is becoming stronger with Sony,’’ Han said.
Hong Ji-eun, a spokeswoman for Sony Korea, confirmed the comments by the LG Display CEO. Han said his firm’s OLED screens are also receiving more attention from existing customers that possibly include Sony. A Sony spokeswoman declined to confirm this.
Asked about an expansion of its tie-up with Sony, even to OLED screens, Han said; ``I can’t talk about that at this time as we aren’t increasing our output.’’
The Sony deal comes after another Japanese TV company, Panasonic, has started selling 42-inch and 47-inch 3D TVs by also using LG’s 3D technology in the United States.
Sony and Panasonic were critical partners for Samsung as they previously used its battery-powered 3D technology.
``The shift by the two Japanese TV majors to LG’s 3D technology means that the ongoing war for the standardization of a 3D format is tilting toward LG, rather than Samsung, which took the initial lead by promoting its battery-powered technology,’’ a KDIA executive said.
But Han said it will be difficult for the top-tier LCD firm to see a turnaround in profit in the first quarter.
``Despite market uncertainties, LG won’t sell new shares. We aren’t in such a desperate situation as to be forced to launch any capital-raising campaigns from financial markets,’’ he said.