Electronics Production | May 20, 2009
Demand for small/ medium displays rises; will prices follow suit?
Despite rising demand, a reduction in inventories and a marginal increase in prices some for a few small/medium-sized LCD panels in April, global pricing is expected to remain on a downward trend in 2009, according to iSuppli.
"Demand for small/medium LCDs, i.e., those with a diagonal dimension of 9 inches and less, was boosted in March by surge in rush orders from Chinese manufacturers," said Vinita Jakhanwal, principal analyst for mobile displays at iSuppli. "China’s demand has been stimulated by government rebates and a rural stimulus program created to promote sales of electronic products, including mobile phones, that use small-sized LCD displays." "The demand outlook for these panels is expected to continue to improve because the small/medium LCD supply chain has corrected its excess inventory situation. With inventories down to low levels, LCD makers are restocking the channel with new products." However, this is having very little impact on small/medium LCD prices in general. Of the 67 types of LCD panels tracked by iSuppli’s Small/Medium Display PriceTrak service, 41 declined in April compared to March. Only three experienced price increases, with the remainder unchanged from March. These displays are used in seven types of products: cameras, digital photo frames, handheld computers/PDAs, mobile handsets, portable computers, portable DVDs and Portable Navigation Devices (PNDs). Pricing trends are expected to continue to be weak in May, with only one type of small/medium LCD managing an increase. The good news is that price decreases are moderating in April and May compared to the more significant declines seen in the first quarter, when suppliers cut prices in order to reduce inventories. However, this stabilization will be short term, with more declines returning as the inventory restocking effort ends. Prices may take a further hit in the third quarter because suppliers are announcing some expansions in capacity, up from the low levels of the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009. If this increase in capacity is not matched by a rise in end-user demand, prices will decline at a faster rate. Mobile Handset Display Pricing Remains Weak Most suppliers of small/medium displays for the mobile-handset market are likely to decrease their prices for their Tier-1 customers. The figure below presents monthly global average pricing for 3.5-Inch 320 by 480 LCD panels by as much as 5 percent in the second quarter of 2009, although some spot pricing for rush orders from the local Chinese handset market may increase slightly. Despite the current tough economic conditions, the smart- phone market continues to witness robust demand, and some panels for these products are likely to enjoy stable pricing or perhaps slight increases. For example, the 3.5-inch 320 by 480 display used in smart phones posted a 1 percent price increase in April. Furthermore, Low-Temperature Polysilicon (LTPS) LCD panels continue to be in demand and are popular choices for high-end smart-phone displays. Nonetheless, LTPS LCD supply is likely to become constrained as demand picks up, with a few Japanese companies deciding to close their older-generation LTPS LCD fabs. Many display suppliers, especially in Taiwan, are looking at increasing their market share and penetration into the large handset vendors, specifically for smart-phone products. In order to win new projects, they are likely to be more competitive on prices. For mobile handset displays, suppliers are able to reduce the cost of panel production as they are using fully depreciated fabs.
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