Flat-panel sales expected to pass NT$1 trillion


Mon, Jan 23, 2006 - Page 10

Sales in Taiwan's flat-panel display industry are expected to exceed the NT$1 trillion (US$31.14 billion) mark this year as consumer electronics gadgets, including televisions and mobile phones, are rapidly adopting the slim screens, a local researcher said in a quarterly report.

But growth will slow this year compared with last year, as local firms have limited new production capacity to cope with the burgeoning demand for liquid-crystal-display (LCD) TVs, the Hsinchu-based Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院) said in a report released last Wednesday.

"The growth will not be as big as in 2005, as Taiwanese companies will not start offering TV panels from their 7.5-generation [7.5G] plants until the end of 2006," ITRI said.

AU Optronics Corp (友達光電), the nation's top maker of flat panels for computers and TVs, plans to start mass production at its first 7.5G factory by the year end, ahead of its local peers.

The firm will use the advanced plant primarily to process bigger glass substrates measuring 1.95m by 2.25m per sheet, allowing it to cut these into 37-inch or 42-inch LCD panels for TVs.

Nevertheless, this year should still be better than ITRI originally thought. Stronger-than-expected demand for computer flat panels and stabilizing panel prices during the high season for shopping last year prompted the researcher to raise its forecasts for this year and last year.

For the fourth quarter, AU Optronics said sales of computer and TV panels jumped 20 percent over the previous quarter, to 9.7 million units, better than the company's forecast of 15 percent in October.

ITRI now projects that sales in the flat-panel display industry will expand 17.2 percent this year to NT$1.14 trillion, from an estimated NT$976.1 billion last year.

ITRI previously forecast that sales would increase to NT$1.08 trillion this year. The forecast includes sales of components for LCD panels such as color filters, as well as flat panels that use different manufacturing technologies.

Last year, the annual growth rate was 37 percent, it said.

The researcher attributed slower growth in flat panels, which account for more than 70 percent of the domestic flat-panel industry's total sales, for the smaller increase.

Flat-panel sales should rise by about 16 percent to NT$882.9 billion this year from an estimated NT$708.2 billion last year, the researcher forecast.

In the smaller-than-10-inch flat-panel segment, ITRI expects sales growth of about 25 percent from last year, mostly driven by the use of thin-film-transistor LCDs in handsets.