Shipments of flat panels grow faster than was expected

IN DEMAND:Global shipments of PC and TV flat panels expanded to 148 million units in the fourth quarter, with LCD monitors leading the way

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Jan 15, 2010 - Page 12

Global shipments of flat panels used in computers and televisions grew a faster-than-expected 1.4 percent last quarter, driven by inventory restocking demand primarily for the anticipated Lunar New Year buying spree in China, a Taipei-based researcher said yesterday.

The growth beat WitsView’s original estimate of a 5 percent quarter-on-quarter contraction in shipments of liquid-crystal-display (LCD) panels worldwide.

“Market demand is strong. The fourth quarter is not as slow as it was before,” WitsView said in the report, indicating “a bullish first quarter.”

Global shipments of PC and TV flat panels expanded to 148 million units in the final quarter of last year with LCD monitors leading the rebound, compared to 146 million shipped in the third quarter, WitsView’s tallies showed.

The unexpectedly good recovery bodes well for the industry’s prospects, WitsView said, as last month’s upswing in demand for TVs ahead of the holiday shopping season in China in particular may extend into this quarter to sustain demand in the conventionally slack period.

The Chinese government’s enhanced subsidies for PC and TV purchases and PC replacements following the sales of Microsoft Corp’s Windows 7 system also helped, the researcher said.

“China’s TV demand will be a main driving force in the first quarter,” a WitsView analyst, who requested not to be named, said by telephone. “This quarter’s shipments may hold steady, or slide a bit [from the previous quarter].”

That means the first quarter could be better than the seasonal pattern as demand usually dwindles after the gift shopping season in the US and Europe, leading to a decline of about 5 percent quarter-on-quarter.

But WitsView expected that tight supply of key components including glass and some chips would carry into this quarter, the report said.

In the final three months of last year, the nation’s top LCD panel maker AU Optronics Corp (友達光電) said PC and TV panel shipments rose 2.5 percent quarter-on-quarter to 27.37 million units, while smaller rival Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp (奇美電子) saw shipments fall 3.4 percent.