Thu, Jul 10, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Taiwan has difficult job entering market for flat-screen TVs

By Bill Heaney  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwanese producers of an essential component for flat-screen computer displays and televisions will face a difficult job entering the rapidly growing market for large-screen home televisions as they do not have the brand recognition of Japanese and European companies, industry watchers said yesterday.

"Taiwanese flat-panel makers face a difficult task entering the liquid-crystal display [LCD] TV market as they do not command the customer brand loyalty of the Japanese," said Wang Chien-erh (王建二), president of the Taiwan branch of US-based computer display researcher DisplaySearch.

LCD TVs are luxury items, and to persuade consumers to buy luxury products, consumers prefer a brand name they trust, Wang said.

"Compare the luxury car market," he said.

"Would you buy a car with a Yamaha label, or a Lexus? Most people would say Lexus, but Yamaha supplies the Lexus' engine. It is the same situation in Taiwan where the Taiwanese are supplying the panels for other brands," Wang said.

Taiwan is the world's second largest supplier of thin-film transistor liquid-crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels after South Korea, according to DisplaySearch.

Local players include AU Optronics Corp (友達光電), Quanta Display Inc (廣輝電子), Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp (奇美光電), HannStar Display Corp (瀚宇 彩晶), and Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd (中華映管).

Together they supply 35 percent of the world's TFT-LCD panels, compared to South Korea's 44 percent and Japan's 22 percent, DisplaySearch said yesterday.

The five companies lack the service required to support international brand business, one analyst said.

"It is hard for Taiwanese brands to become global brands as they are very weak in after-sales service, or warranty service," said Debbie Wu (吳岱玲), an analyst at Yuanta Core Pacific Securities Co (元大京華證券) in Taipei.

"Local companies will only get into the LCD TV market as panel suppliers for the big names," she said.

BenQ Corp (明電) is the only local company building a brand name in the LCD TV business, the analysts said.

"If BenQ is successful at building a brand, then more local companies may follow," said Frank Su (蘇穀祥), an analyst at BNP Paribas in Taipei.

"The industry is changing. Look at the pattern in Japan where 30 years ago they were component makers for US brands. Gradually they changed and upgraded themselves.

"Taiwanese companies facing thin profit margins will try to enter the branding business," he said.

This year LCD TVs will account for only 9 percent of the TFT-LCD market, but will rise rapidly to overtake computer displays by 2007 in terms of market share, DisplaySearch predicted yesterday.

In 2007, one in three panels sold will be destined for a flat-screen TV, compared to 31 percent for computer displays, the firm predicts.

The traditional flat-screen markets for notebook computer and desktop computer displays are expected to do well in the second half of the year.

DisplaySearch forecast yesterday that prices for the standard 15-inch and upcoming 17-inch panels will remain stable for the rest of the year. The research firm increased its forecast for the flat-panel market from US$32 billion to US$34 billion by year's end.

If cathode-ray tube (CRT), mobile phone and personal digital assistant (PDA) screens are added, the total global display market is expected to be worth US$61 billion this year.

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