Tue, May 09, 2006 - Page 12 News List

AUO says its LCD panel sales flat, but shipments booming

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

AU Optronics Corp (友達光電), the world's third-largest maker of liquid-crystal-display (LCD) panels for computers and televisions, yesterday said sales for last month were flat, but shipments were at an all-time high, sending out a positive signal for the current quarter.

Sales for last month were almost unchanged at NT$22.44 billion (US$715 million), compared with NT$22.46 billion in March, according to the company.

Last month's sales, however, represented growth of 50 percent from a year ago when the industry was in the middle of a supply glut.

Shipments for computer and TV panels expanded 8 percent to 3.45 million units last month after more advanced plants ramped up production, from 3.19 million units in March.

The growth in shipments bodes well for the Hsinchu-based panel maker, an analyst said.

"The results are very good. It [the growth in shipments] is a good sign, indicating that demand is recovering," said Eric Lin (林宜正), who tracks the LCD industry for Yuanta Core Pacific Securities (元大京華證券).

AU Optronics' performance last month bucked the downward trend amid falling prices.

The company said that prices for computer panels and TV panels would drop between 5 percent and 10 percent this quarter from the first quarter on seasonal factors.

The price for a mainstream 19-inch LCD panel for computers would fall another 5 percent to US$152 per sheet during the first half of this month, compared with 15 days ago, according to market researcher WitsView's latest survey.

WitsView blamed seasonally weak demand behind the price drop.

Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp (奇美電子), Taiwan's No.2 maker of flat panels, started feeling the pinch from a slackening in demand last month.

The Tainan-based company, which piled up inventory during the first quarter, said shipments fell 12 percent to 2.25 million units last month from March.

Slower demand for televisions drove down the overall sales contribution from TV panels to less than 50 percent, said Chi Mei, the nation's biggest maker of TV panels.

Monthly sales also declined 23.83 percent to NT$13.02 billion last month from NT$17.01 billion, Chi Mei said. However, sales were up 28 percent compared with the same period last year.

"The decline in shipments shows Chi Mei is still grappling with a large inventory," Lin said.

Chi Mei told investors late last month that inventory would be under control by this quarter.

Chi Mei's inventory jumped almost 45 percent to NT$21.5 billion during the first three months, compared with NT$14.85 billion in the final quarter of last year, according to company statistics.

Bigger rival AU Optronics only posted an 18 percent increase during the same period.

Shares in AU Optronics and Chi Mei Optoelectronics climbed 0.92 percent and 1.09 percent, respectively, to NT$54.9 and NT$46.5 on the Taiwan Stock Exchange yesterday.

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