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  • TFT-LCD Panel Prices Rising at Steady Pace
  • February 19, 1999 (TAIPEI) -- Expanding demand together with short supply is pushing up the prices of thin film transistor-liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels to new highs.
    The prices of large TFT-LCD panels began to soar in the fourth quarter of 1998, and another 20 percent-40 percent increase is expected by the end of 1999. The prices of small and midsize panels have risen 15 percent-20 percent so far, and are likely to increase by about the same margin in the rest of this year.

    Prime View International Co., Ltd., a local LCD maker, said that demand for small and midsize panels is increasing rapidly, owing to such new products as car TVs and digital cameras.

    Prime View and Unipac Optoelectronics Corp., two major manufacturers of small and midsize panels, are competing with Japan's Casio Computer Co., Ltd. and Seiko Epson Corp. The production lines of the two Taiwan-based companies have recently been running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to meet the shipment deadlines. They both plan to substantially boost their monthly output of TFT-LCD panels in the second half of the year.

    Local makers of optoelectronics products said that the first wave of price hikes in the TFT-LCD panel market was initiated by Japan's Toshiba Corp., Sharp Corp. and NEC Corp. Also, Korean makers are preparing to follow suit later this year.

    The prevailing unit price of 12.1-in. panels stands at about US$250, while 13.1-in. and 14.1-in. panels are priced at US$400 and US$440, respectively.

    Excessive optimism in 1996 created an oversupply in the TFT-LCD market, and the Asian economic crisis in 1997 triggered a massive sell-off by Korean makers. The plunge in TFT-LCD prices forced many companies to cut output or to withdraw from the market entirely.

    However, the imbalance of supply and demand is now reflected in the tight supply of panels, in part because of strong demand by makers of notebook PCs. Many computer companies had complained that the supply of TFT-LCD panels was insufficient in the fourth quarter of last year.

    Wintek Corp., another Taiwan-based LCD maker, expects the price increases to continue through the end of 1999. The start of mass production of TFT-LCD panels by six Taiwan-based companies in the second half of the year will likely help relieve the short supply.

    (Commercial Times, Taiwan)

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    Updated: Thu Feb 18 15:44:01 1999 PDT