AU Optronics Corp (AUO, 友達光電), the world’s No. 3 liquid-crystal-display (LCD) panel maker, said yesterday that its equipment utilization rate had improved better than expected to more than 50 percent on the back of improving demand for PCs and TVs in China and North America, as well as inventory buildup demand.
AU Optronics was now “more optimistic,” chief executive Chen Lai-juh (陳來助) told reporters. “The visibility increases.”
“We do not see any reasons to be pessimistic this year. At least, we know there is demand out there,” he said.
“Recent rush orders mostly stem from demand for inventory replenishment as customers have kept their inventories at a lower than normal level since late last year. They started buying more recently as panel prices have fallen drastically over the past year to a very low level,” Chen said.
“[End] demand in China and Northern America also looks quite good. People are cautious about spending because of economic uncertainty. But they have not stopped buying things,” he said.
Improving demand helped lift factory usage to approach the high end of the mid-50-percent range recently, Chen said.
In January, AU Optronics said its equipment utilization rate this quarter might be unchanged at 50 percent, compared with the final quarter of last year.
AU Optronics has said PC and TV panel shipments would drop by 15 percent to 20 percent this quarter from 15.1 million units last quarter.
Chen said AUO would stick to its previous outlook for the full year. Operations would be better month on month this year, he said.
Prices for PC panels would hold steady over the last two weeks of the month compared with the first half as demand for panels used in PC monitors and notebooks has improved, although panel makers were reluctant to boost production rapidly because they were still selling panels below cost and were also concerned about second-quarter demand, DisplaySearch said in its latest report, released yesterday.
The price for a wide-format 19-inch panel for PC monitors would remain unchanged at NT$64 per unit during the second half of this month from the first two weeks of March, the Austin, Texas-based market researcher said.
Shares of AU Optronics climbed 2.15 percent to NT$28.5 yesterday.