Thu, Apr 22, 2010 - Page 12 News List

Prime View in black on strong demand

LOOKING WEST To secure market leadership, the world’s largest maker of electronic paper is aggressively making forays into China this year and has sealed several deals

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Prime View International Co (元太科技), the world’s largest maker of electronic paper, was in the black for the second consecutive quarter by posting net income of NT$702 million (US$21.3 million) in the first three months of this year, citing strong customer demand for e-readers.

The company is eyeing China this year to fuel growth, chairman Scott Liu (劉思誠) said.

The company’s first-quarter figures were compared with a net loss of NT$950 million in the first quarter of last year and a net income of NT$261 million in the fourth quarter of last year.

Sales in the first three months doubled to NT$5 billion from a year earlier, which was slightly up from NT$4.9 billion in the fourth quarter, showing continued demand for e-readers from global consumers, Liu told an investor conference yesterday.

Earnings per share was NT$0.7 in the first quarter, compared to a loss of NT$1.03 a share a year ago. Gross margins improved to 28.9 percent, from a minus-15.9 percent in the first quarter last year and 13.5 percent in the fourth quarter last year, the company said.

“The first-quarter sales are usually down from the fourth, as the Christmas effect fades,” Liu said. “But we saw huge orders from clients this time around.”

To secure market leadership, Prime View is aggressively making forays into China this year and has sealed several deals.

Last Saturday, Prime View signed a pact with Fanshu.com (蕃薯網) under PKU Founder Group (北京方正), in which e-paper from Prime View would be incorporated in the reading platform of Fanshu.com — China’s largest supplier of copyrighted books.

Fanshu.com has 1.8 million titles in its collection, more than four times those of Amazon.com, Liu said.

One day later, Prime View announced a collaboration with Phoenix Publishing & Media Network (鳳凰出版傳媒), a leading textbook publisher in China.

The partnership will allow Prime View to gauge the needs of the education market and improve e-paper more tailor-made to their needs, said Prime View public relations official Sabine Cheng (鄭惟方).

“They will give us the feedback such as they want to make notes or mark assignments on the e-readers, which will keep us on the loop of market needs,” she said.

Prime View is pouring US$500 million into its e-paper module maker Transcend Optronics (Yangzhou) Co Ltd (川奇光電) located in Yangzhou, China over the next five years, by expanding facilities and building an entire e-paper production ecosystem there.

Liu reiterated yesterday that the launch of Apple Inc’s iPads would not jeopardize e-reader sales, despite some market watchers raising such doubts by pointing out thar iPads offer computer functionality, e-reader features and colored screens at more affordable prices.

“The debut of iPads will help enlarge the e-reader market pie,” Liu said, but added that the Apple product could reduce Prime View’s 90 percent market share in the global e-paper sector.

iPads use LCD panels while Prime View offers reflective panels for device makers.

Price tags of e-readers, currently retailing at US$200 to US$300 per unit, are expected to drop to US$200 by the end of this year and dip to US$99 next year, accelerating penetration, Liu said.

Prior to yesterday’s investor conference, shares of Prime View soared by the daily limit to close at NT$61.6 in Taipei trading.

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