LG Display, the world's top display panel maker, has officially asked long-time rival Samsung Display to join the race for large-sized organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels to beat Chinese companies in the sector, widely considered the next-generation display market.
"Samsung Display will join with LG," LG Display CEO and Vice Chairman Han Sang-beom said on the sidelines of a meeting between CEOs from big companies and the trade ministry in downtown Seoul, Wednesday. "I believe this issue is a matter of timing."
Han declined to specify. But he said LG Display plans to invest up to 4 trillion won focusing on larger OLED panels for televisions.
"LG's plan to increase investment in our two key Korean plants _ one in Paju and the other one is Gumi _ won't change," Han said. The LG Group's display affiliate invested 3 trillion won in 2015, it said.
The company executive said the groundwork at its latest P10-dubbed OLED plant in Paju, the city near the inter-Korean border, has begun. "We are in the process of doing some land works," Han said.
The plant, which will be the largest OLED plant in the world, will be operational from June 2018 and supply small and large OLED panels to top clients including Apple.
"We thanked the trade ministry for its sincere support to address electricity and water supply issues," he said.
However, Han expects the global display industry to suffer from the weak panel prices and a continued oversupply this year. "We hope the market will see some turnaround sometime in the latter half of this year," he said.
LG Display reported 28.28 trillion won in sales last year and a 1.62 trillion won operating profit, up 7 percent and 20 percent, respectively, year-on-year.
Samsung's OLED join?
At LG Display's request, Samsung Display said the Samsung Group's display affiliate "is trying hard to fine-tune OLED technologies."
"Samsung Display is trying its best to develop OLED technologies," CEO Park Dong-geun said. "We are reviewing the marketability of the OLED TV market. However, no decisions have been made so far," Park said, adding the timing to start mass-production of OLED TV panels is yet to be finalized.
Samsung has already asked its top-tier local suppliers to develop needed equipment at Samsung's display plants in Korea when Samsung Electronics' top management makes a final decision on mass-production of larger OLEDs.
Unlike traditional LCDs, OLEDs are brighter and more energy efficient because the panels do not use bulky backlight, allowing set-makers to produce stylish products with a thinner surface.
But because of technological barriers, Samsung still has questions about the marketability of larger OLEDs; therefore, Samsung has been focusing on smaller OLEDs to be used in the Galaxy device lineup, while LG has shifted its focus to OLED TVs.
"This is why Samsung is pushing hard for quantum.dot TV, which is a variant of LCD, with some enhancements in picture quality," said an official wishing to remain anonymous. "However, Samsung will join the OLED TV market very soon, which is good for Korea to create a new ecosystem in the next-generation display market."