A model poses next to an 84-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) panel that supports ultra high-definition(UHD) viewing, developed by LG Display. / Courtesy of LG Display
By Kim Yoo-chul
LG Display, the display-making unit of LG Group, is widening its lead over rivals in all flat-screen display segments.
In Korea, LG has always trailed Samsung but LG is rewriting that story, at least in displays. LG Display is beating Samsung Display in the race for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs.
LG is also ahead of Samsung in liquid crystal displays (LCDs). According to the latest analysis of market research firm DisplaySearch, the Yeouido, Seoul-based outfit has maintained its global top position in large LCDs for the last three years.
DisplaySearch data shows that LG Display shipped 218 million units of LCDs sized 9.1 inches and above to grab 29 percent of the global share in 2012. Meanwhile, Samsung Display shipped 163 million units, Chimei Innolux 128 million units and AU Optronics 119 million units.
LG Display's global shares in 2010 and 2011 were 26 percent and 27.9 percent, respectively, according to DisplaySearch. In terms of revenue, LG also led with $22.7 billion in 2012, and Samsung reported $19.98 billion.
"This result is no surprise considering the company's stable client base, which we believe is very competitive. LG Display is also becoming aggressive in its new display technologies, such as flexible and OLED ones, prompting us to buy more LG shares," said Kim Il-tae, a senior fund manager at Taurus Investment & Securities in Seoul.
LG Display supplies in-plane switching (IPS) LCDs to almost all major global technology companies, including Chinese smartphone makers.
The company, under the helm of new CEO Han Sang-beom, is investing more in developing new display technologies.
According to Kim and the company's reports, in 2010, LG invested $225 million in R&D, and in 2012, planned to invest $2.8 billion, $1.9 billion of which was for OLEDs.
LG's efforts seem to be effective because Samsung admitted it is considering adopting LG's OLED technology for its upcoming OLED TV models.
"Samsung Electronics doesn't care too much about adopting LG's technology. We are late in the race for OLED TVs. We will diversify our OLED TV models regardless of the technologies we need to adopt," said an official at a local Samsung factory who declined to be named.
LG uses white OLEDs (W-OLEDs) with color filters and indium-gallium-zinc oxide (IGZO) thin film transistor (TFT) backplanes in its OLED TVs, while Samsung uses red-green-blue (RGB) and polysilicon TFT backplanes.
LG also uses a W-OLED hybrid model, W-RGB, in its OLED TVs. The W-RGB is more cost effective than the RGB and is also ideal for large OLED TVs. These are definite advantages in the still early global OLED TV market.
LG is also far ahead in ultra high-definition (UHD) TVs, touted as the next cash cow for TV manufacturers.
It can manufacture and supply UHD panels from 6080 inches in size. It plans to release its 77-inch UHD OLED panel at next year's technology exhibition in Las Vegas.
Driven by its successes, LG is open to signing a cross-licensing deal with Samsung, albeit the two are still involved in patent disputes.
Samsung approached LG in an attempt to end the disputes, and so that it can license LG's W-OLED technologies.
In 2010, LG Group's technology affiliates bought OLED patents from Kodak and established a new venture to develop and protect more OLED patents. These endeavors negatively affected Samsung.
LG has also expanded to flexible displays, which can be twisted and bent and used for next-generation tablets and smartphones.
In partnership with Korea's finance ministry, LG aims to ship its first batch of flexible displays later this year, also ahead of Samsung.