Thu, Jan 12, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Corning expects glass demand to triple

DISPLAY BOOM The New York-based company said the rise in popularity of LCD TVs means there will be a surge in demand for the glass used to make the appliances

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER IN TAICHUNG

Corning Inc, the world's biggest liquid-crystal-display (LCD) glass supplier, expects glass demand to almost triple next year from 2004, driven primarily by fast-growing demand for large-sized flat-screen televisions, a company executive said yesterday.

Over the past few years, computer monitors have been the major force fueling demand, but now "LCD TVs are emerging as the third wave of LCD glass demand," said Eugene Verdon Jr, president of Corning Display Technologies' Taiwan branch.

Market research firm DisplaySearch said it is considering raising its outlook for LCD TV sales for this year on the back of better-than-expected Christmas sales as prices were cut to sweeten deals.

DisplaySearch earlier predicted that LCD TV sales would nearly double to 36 million units this year from 19.6 million last year.

For the same reason, Corning expected the LCD TV penetration rate to spike to around 21 percent worldwide by next year from just 5 percent in 2004 as prices fall.

Verdon made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the New York-based company's second Taiwanese facility.

The US$1.5-billion facility marks Corning's biggest investment in the last 20 years.

Corning plans to make glass panels bigger than 1.5m x 1.8m at the second fab for its customers to cut 32-inch, or bigger, TV panels. The first fab, located in southern Taiwan, is now mostly producing glass panels for computer monitors and smaller-sized TVs.

Sales of LCD TVs would rise to around 48 million units by 2007 with the strongest growth from the 30-inch and bigger screen sizes, Verdon said.

In light of the brisk demand, Verdon expected LCD glass demand to nearly triple next year from the 46 million square meters feet consumed in 2004 worldwide. Last year, flat-panel manufacturers purchased around 74 million square meters, Corning said.

Taiwan would outpace South Korea in glass demand by 2007 due to the number of flat panel makers and their aggressive expansion plans, Verdon said.

Taiwanese flat panel manufacturers would make up 44 percent of the total demand by 2007, compared with 32 percent for Korean companies and 21 percent for Japanese firms, he added.

Corning's new fab is located in the Central Taiwan Science Park in Taichung and is adjacent to the nation's largest LCD panel maker, AU Optronics Corp (友達光電).

AU Optronics now runs a sixth-generation (6G) plant here and plans to start mass construction of a more advanced 7.5G factory by the fourth quarter.

AU plans to make 42-inch flat panels for TVs after the new plants start operations, while producing 32-inch panels at the 6G fab.

Corning said it had started supplying AU Optronics with a small volume of glass for the pilot run of its latest factory after it began cranking out its first glass substrate in November last year.

There are around 1,000 employees at the new fab and Corning plans to double the work/force to around 2,000 by next year.

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