Thursday, July 31, 2008

CPT lowers 2008 LCD panel shipment goal by 6%

Rebecca Kuo, Taipei; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES [Wednesday 30 July 2008]

Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) vice president Brian Lee told investors that the panel maker has lowered its large-size panel shipment goal by 6% for the year, in order to reflect weaker-than-expected demand in the LCD panel market, with reduction for various panel segments being in the 5-10% range.

For monitor panels, the original goal for 2008 was 19.2 million units, with 9.5 million units for the first half of the year and 9.7 million units for the second half. The revised goal is 17.9 million units for the entire year, with 9.4 million and 8.5 million units for the first and second half.

For notebook panel shipments, the original goal for 2008 was 6.8 million units, with 3 million units coming from the first half of the year and 3.8 million units from the second half, Lee said. The goal now is 6.1 million units for the whole year, 2.9 million units of which coming from the first half and 3.2 million units from the second.

But CPT raised its shipment goal for TV panels, which were originally expected to reach 1.4 million units in the first half and 1.3 million units in the second half for a total of 2.7 million units for 2008. The revised goal put 2008 shipments at 2.9 million units, 1.4 million units coming from the first half and 1.5 million units in the second half of the year, Lee said.

CPT president Chuang-Yi Chiu said 2008 shipments still look satisfactory. CPT has lowered its utilization rate by 10%, but the company expects it to be a short-term measure that will last only till the end of August when demand in the panel market rebounds, Chiu said.

Most of the major panel makers have already cut their production, with Samsung Electronics being an exception. Asked if Samsung's decision to not cut production will affect the panel industry's supply and demand, Chiu said it will have impact in one way or another.

But he commented that it is understandable why Samsung is not reducing its panel output because the Korean vendor has a strong LCD TV and monitor brand, so it has strong capabilities to digest inventories.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Commentary: LCD panel makers may still have satisfactory 3Q if production cut can accelerate inventory clearance

Rebecca Kuo, Tainan; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES [Tuesday 29 July 2008]

With most major LCD players having cut their production amid slumping prices and a global economic downturn, the LCD panel market in the third quarter looks bleak. But global panel shipments in the third quarter may still stay flat, rather than drop, compared to the second quarter if the market is able to clear its inventory in time.

The sharp declines in prices may stimulate demand. Panel makers still hope back-to-school demand will provide momentum for IT applications, while LCD TV vendors are running pricing campaigns to boost sales.

LG Display (LGD) has joined AU Optronics (AUO) and Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) in cutting production by about 10%. But LGD said its output reduction will last until the end of August, and utilization will rise again in September. It is a demonstration of LGD's expectations that the panel market will still see a seasonal upturn in September.

AUO has said its TV panel inventory is still at healthy levels, and clients are still making preparations for the high season. Although the inventory of monitor panels is about 1-2 weeks higher than normal, the excessive inventory will have been digested by the end of August. Notebook panel inventory is still as satisfactory levels, AUO said.

Panel makers believe the production cut will help clear inventory and bring a rebound sooner.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

AUO to launch 10-inch netbook panel in 3Q08

Susie Pan, Taipei; Joseph Tsai, DIGITIMES [Monday 28 July 2008]

AUO senior VP and general manager of IT display business group, Paul Peng has noted that AUO is planning to launch a 10-inch panel for netbooks in the third quarter this year.

Peng noted that since 8.9-inch panels are most suitable for internet browsing, it is only logical for 8.9-inch panels to replace 7-inch ones. However, since 10-inch panels have the same resolution as 8.9-inch, replacement will not be as fast.

Peng said the netbook market is still developing making forecasts difficult, however since Asustek and Acer expect to ship five million units, while Dell and Hewlett-Packard (HP) both plan to launch new products, therefore annual shipments in 2008 will not be less than 10 million units.

AUO has has landed orders from Acer, Dell and HP, in addition to Asustek. In 2008, AUO will hold a more than 50% share of the netbook panel market, Peng claimed.

Monday, July 28, 2008

AUO may delay ramp at hybrid 7.5-8.5G plant if panel market is weak next year

Rebecca Kuo and Siu Han, Taipei; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES [Friday 25 July 2008]

AU Optronics (AUO) may delay the ramp-up at its hybrid 7.5-8.5G LCD panel plant if the panel market is weak next year, but the company does not believe that the market will be as bad as others are predicting, according to AUO CEO HB Chen.

Many observers are warning that the LCD panel market may see oversupply when makers ramp up production at their next-generation lines, and the situation may get even worse if the market continues to be hit by a weak economy.

But Chen told an investors conference Thursday that unless something uncontrollable happens, the 2009 market will not be too bad. As for the capital expenditure (capex) for 2009, AUO will remain flexible, but it may delay the production ramp-up at its hybrid plant if the market is weak, Chen said.

AUO plans to kick off mass production in the third or fourth quarter of 2009.

Chen said AUO's capex for 2008 will remain at NT$130-140 billion as originally planned although the company will only run at 90% of its capacity for the third quarter. While the lower utilization is expected to impact the company's margins and profits, AUO still expects growth in the third quarter: 5% sequential shipment increase for the large-size segment, and 15% for the small- to medium-size segment.

But the average selling price (ASP) for IT applications will fall 15% sequentially and down slightly for TV panels in the third quarter, during which the ASP for overall large-size panels will decline 5%.

Chen said although the high season in the third quarter looks weak, demand may still pick up after the channel clears inventories in mid August. He said clients still have hopes that the Beijing Olympics and the long holiday around China's October 1 National Day will boost sales of LCD TVs.

AUO said its inventory increased to 40 days in the second quarter from 33 days in the first quarter. In order to keep the inventory at 40 days or so, AUO has to reduce its utilization rate to 90% in the third quarter, it explained.


Photo: Rebecca Kuo, Digitimes

Friday, July 25, 2008

PVI says Korean government red tape delaying Hydis takeover

Susie Pan, Taipei; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES [Thursday 24 July 2008]

Prime View International (PVI) has revealed that the formal takeover of BOE Hydis has yet to take place because of slow progress by the Korean government working on completing the acquisition.

The Taiwan-based panel maker, which had previously expected to complete the takeover in mid June, said it has already paid the sum needed for the acquisition. It said it has also dispatched its personnel to Korea to help improve Hydis' operations, but Hydis' top management will not be changed in the meantime.

The bankrupt Hydis is currently under the administration of the Korean government, which has been slow in processing the acquisition, PVI said.

PVI Wednesday decided to issue unsecured overseas convertible bonds and overseas depositary receipts to raise about US$188 million to repay short-term loans it has taken out from banks to fund its takeover of Hydis.

PVI last November announced a deal to spend 260 billion won (US$257.68 million) to secure a 95% stake of Hydis.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

AUO and CMO not delaying construction of 8.5 lines

Rebecca Kuo, Tainan; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES [Wednesday 23 July 2008]

While the LCD panel industry is seeing its players delaying equipment installation for their 6G plants because of weak demand, AU Optronics (AUO) and Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) have not changed their schedules for equipment move-in at their 8.5G lines, according to sources at TFT LCD equipment suppliers.

The sources explained that initial capacity at AUO and CMO's 8.5G plants will be low. However, the two biggest panel makers in Taiwan will not want to lose out to foreign competitors in the race to next-generation production, and therefore need their 8.5G plants to ramp up production as scheduled, the sources commented.

CMO has already reduced its utilization rate to 90%, while AUO has been said to have followed suit by cutting utilization by 10%. Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) vice president James Wu confirmed today (July 22) that the company has already cut its output 10%.

While lowering their utilization rates, panel makers are also considering slowing their 6G expansion, the sources said. Panel makers are now in talks with equipment suppliers for a delay in the installation of equipment at their 6G lines, the sources revealed.

Citing CMO as an example, the sources said the maker initially planned to ramp up its 6G capacity to 80,000 substrates by the end of 2008, but it now wants to delay the installation of equipment for a capacity of 10,000 substrates.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Taiwan LED makers see improved gross margins in 2Q

Siu Han, Taipei; Joseph Tsai, DIGITIMES [Tuesday 22 July 2008]

Although LED demand did not surge during the industry's traditional peak season in the second quarter, LED makers are expected to see improved gross margins in the second quarter as compared to the slow season in the first quarter.

Affected by weak demand for LEDs used in backlight units (BLU) for small- to medium-size LCD panels, Unity Opto Technology saw its revenues in the second quarter drop 11% sequentially, but its gross margins are expected to increase to around 16-17%, up from 10% in the first quarter.

Bright LED Electronics' gross margins are expected to rebound to 20% in the second quarter, up from 14% in the first quarter. Market watchers also expect Epistar's gross margins to increase to 23-24% in the second quarter, up from 20% in the first quarter, while its earnings per share (EPS) will be around NT$0.5 (US$0.016)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

LCD panel pricing trending toward production costs in some segments

Rebecca Kuo, Tainan; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES [Monday 21 July 2008]

LCD panel makers are seeing prices for some popular segments, such as in the 32-inch TV panel segment, drop close to production costs, and prices could fall below production costs by the end of the fourth quarter, according to industry sources.

Typical 32-inch TV panels for the second half of July are being quoted at US$285, down US$13 from the first half of the month, according to DisplaySearch's latest panel pricing figures.

The sources indicated that first-tier panel makers' average costs for 32-inch TV applications in the third quarter are about US$260. And if the pace of current downward trend continues, prices for the 32-inch segment may have dropped below production costs by the end of the fourth quarter, the sources remarked.

For 42-inch full HD TV panels, DisplaySearch figures put quotes of typical panels at US$505 for the second half of July, down US$5 compared to the first half of the month.

The sources noted that while first-tier panel makers production costs' for the 42-inch segment are about US$490 for the third quarter, there is a good chance that the quotes may drop below production costs in the third quarter.

Panel makers are now reducing their output in hopes to curb the price slump. The sources commented that prices in August may fall at a much slower pace because of a seasonal increase in demand, but the end of the high season later this year may trigger another wave of pricing pressure.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Taiwan government loosens restrictions on China investments

Bryan Chuang, Taipei; Steve Shen, DIGITIMES [Friday 18 July 2008]

Taiwan's Executive Yuan (Cabinet) on July 17 eased restrictions on investment by Taiwan-based companies in China in a bid to allow local companies to utilize their capital more efficiently so as to improve their competitiveness, according to government officials.

Companies will be allowed to invest up to 60% of their net worth in China compared to the existing limits of 20-40%, said the officials, noting that the new rules will take effect starting August 1.

Under current rules, Taiwan-based firms with a net worth of at least NT$5 billion (US$164.8 million) can invest the equivalent of 40% of the amount in China, while the cap for companies with net worth of NT$5-10 billion and over NT$10 billion are limited at 30% and 20%, respectively.

A total of 52 listed-companies had exceeded the current investment ceiling and another 131 listed-companies were near the investment caps, the Chinese-language Commercial Times quoted data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) as indicating.

In addition, Taiwan's government will also waive any caps on China investments for Taiwan companies that keep their headquarters on the island as well as subsidiaries set up by multinational companies in Taiwan.

There are a total of 577 Taiwan-based companies that have kept their headquarters in Taiwan after making investments in China, with the number of such headquarters to reach 800 by year-end 2009 and to further expand to 1,100 by 2010, the Commercial Times quoted MOEA data as saying.

Meanwhile, the relaxation rules will also raise the cap on China-bound investment by small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and by individuals.
SMEs can invest up to NT$80 million, or up to 60% of their net worth, depending on which is higher, in China, whereas individual investors will be allowed to invest up to US$5 million across the strait compared to current limit of NT$80 million.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Samsung executive said to be arriving in Taiwan for LCD panel supply talks

Max Wang, Taipei; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES [Wednesday 16 July 2008]

An executive handling Samsung Electronics' display business will arrive in Taiwan this week for talks with LCD panel makers to secure supply for TV and monitor applications, according to industry sources.

The expected arrival of JK Kim, vice president of Digital Media Business at Samsung, comes amid a bleak outlook that the panel industry is bracing for slumping prices and persistently weak demand by cutting production. The latest news coming out of the industry is that Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) has already decided to cut its output 10% effective immediately.

The sources disclosed that Kim already visited Taiwan makers in late June about panel supply and prices. Earlier in July, CMO executives flew to Korea in talks with Kim and other relevant Samsung executives, the sources said.

Kim's visit this week is expected to touch on panel supply and prices for both TVs and monitors, two areas in which Samsung is still having strong sales despite the sluggishness in the markets, the sources said.

Samsung, as opposed to its chief competitor Sony, which outsources its LCD TVs to Taiwan, has been assembling LCD TVs at its in-house facilities. But Samsung sources 40% of its TV panels from Taiwan, the sources noted.

Despite worries of oversupply for TV applications in the panel market, Samsung actually has seen shortages in some segments because of strong sales, and it is looking for more secure supply, the sources remarked.

Innolux slows down 6G LCD plant project; CMO said to be doing the same

Rebecca Kuo, Tainan; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES [Wednesday 16 July 2008]

An Innolux Display executive has disclosed that the company is cutting capacity for the first phase of its 6G LCD plant project because of a bleak market outlook, while sources with equipment suppliers claim that Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) is considering slowing down expansion at its 6G line.

Innolux CFO Thomas Hsu pointed out that the original plan for the first-phase construction of the 6G plant was to ramp up the monthly capacity to 90,000 substrates by the end of 2009. But the company has lowered the goal to 60,000 substrates because of the widespread worries of oversupply in the panel industry in the first half of 2009, he revealed.

But there may still be changes depending on the actual market situations, Hsu added.

CMO originally planned to boost its 6G capacity to 80,000 substrates by the end of 2008, but sources with equipment suppliers said the maker is now considering delaying the ramp-up to 80,000 substrates to 2009.

But the sources said suppliers that have already started making preparations for 6G equipment in line with CMO's original plan are still studying how they may meet the client's new schedule. CMO's monthly capacity at its 6G line has already reached 50,000-60,000 substrates.

CMO has just decided to cut production by 10%, according to industry sources.

Ahead of its investors conference slated for July 31, CMO declined to comment on the report that it will cut its output or slow its 6G expansion. But it maintained that it is the company's "strategic goal" to not let inventories pile up

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Panel makers cut output, expect prices to stabilize in August

Rebecca Kuo, Tainan; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES [Tuesday 15 July 2008]

LCD panel makers are reducing their utilization rates while expecting prices to stabilize in August, as clients' inventory levels should start running low and related orders will begin picking up as system makers look to meet demand during the high season, according to industry sources.

The sources noted that brand-name vendors and system makers have already been able to digest parts of their panel inventory, making it likely that panel prices in August will drop slightly or stay flat.

Panel prices dropped sharply in the beginning of July. Citing Hewlett Packard (HP) as an example, the sources claimed the PC vendor asked that the quote for 15.4-inch notebook panels be reduced to US$90 from US$98, a demand that suppliers accepted.

The sources said panel makers are reducing their output in order to help stabilize prices. They said first-tier notebook clients' panel inventory levels have already dropped to 5-6 weeks, and stronger demand can be expected to appear in August to help maintain stable prices.

But it is now a buyer's market for panels, and no matter how low the quotes may be, suppliers will not receive orders unless clients have solved their inventory issues, the sources commented.

Dell said to be planning launch of low-cost notebook in August

Rebecca Kuo, Tainan; Yvonne Yu, DIGITIMES [Tuesday 15 July 2008]

Dell is planning to introduce a low-cost notebook in August to join the low-cost notebook market, according to the market sources. The notebook will be manufactured by Compal Electronics, according to the sources.

Dell is coming to the low-cost notebook party relatively late, compared to other first-tier vendors such as Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Acer. However, the Dell E series low-cost notebook will be priced at only US$299, US$100 cheaper than Acer's Aspire one, and the market sources estimates that Dell can ship 2-3 million units this year.

The panels for the Dell notebook will be provided by Samsung Electronics and Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO), and perhaps AU Optronics (AUO), when the panel makers begins mass production later in the third quarter. However, the sources noted that Dell will not use all three panel suppliers at the same time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

PDPs face strong pressure from increased 32-inch LCD supply

Max Wang, Taipei; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES [Monday 14 July 2008]

TFT LCD makers are stepping up their pressure on PDP competition in the 32-inch TV segment, which has still seen more robust sales than larger-size segments amid the economic downturn.

LG Electronics launched its 32-inch PDPs last year chiefly for the China market, as TV vendors turned to the plasma alternative amid a shortage of 32-inch LCD panels. Competitive prices have boosted sales for 32-inch PDP TVs.

But with panel makers devoting more of their advanced-generation lines to making 32-inch applications, supply for the segment has eased sending prices falling not only for 32-inch LCD panels, but also for PDP ones, industry sources pointed out.

Currently, prices for 32-inch LCD TV panels are about US$320, but some panel suppliers are reportedly offering quotes as low as US$280 to compete for orders, the sources said.

For 32-inch PDP applications, prices are currently about US$270, but some suppliers are offering prices as low as US$240, the sources added.

With prices likely to continue dropping, worries about profitability for the 32-inch segment are deterring some suppliers from joining the competition. Samsung SDI, which was said to be ready to volume produce 32-inch PDPs in July, has abandoned the plans, the sources claimed.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Samsung said to be cutting inventory reserves by half starting July

Rebecca Kuo, Taipei; Joseph Tsai, DIGITIMES [Friday 11 July 2008]

In order to counter the falling worldwide economy, Samsung Electronics reportedly will implement a new inventory management strategy aiming to cut reserves by around half in the second half this year, according to sources at Taiwan-based panel makers.

In the past, Samsung's handset, TV and PC inventories for the market in Korea were maintained at around 5-10 days, while overseas markets were around 2-3 months. But with the new strategy, handset inventories for the overseas market will be reduced to less than one month, and PC inventories for Korea will be changed to ship-to-order.

For its own panel business, Samsung's original panel inventories were held around 1.5 months, but starting July this will be reduced to around one month.

Samsung new inventory controls will affect its TV panel suppliers in Taiwan – AU Optronics (AUO) and Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO). AUO is reported to have had some LCD TV panel orders canceled, while the CMO's shipments to Samsung have not increased as originally expected, the sources revealed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

LCD panel makers cutting small- to medium-size output amid weakening demand

Susie Pan, Taipei; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES [Wednesday 9 July 2008]

LCD panel makers, including Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO), are reducing their output for the small- to medium-size segment as demand continues weakening, according to industry sources.

CMO saw its June shipments to the small- to medium-size segment decrease 35% sequentially to 4.89 million units chiefly because of weak demand from China's white box handset market. CMO supplies small- to medium-size panels to its own LCD module (LCM) subsidiary Chi Hsin Electronics and other LCM makers.

While CMO is cutting the volume of production for the small- to medium-size segment, Chunghwa Picture Tubes and HannStar Display are shifting more of their small- to medium-size capacities to processing monitor and low-cost notebook applications.

CPT has yet to announce its small- to medium-size shipments for June, but it has disclosed the volume is comparable to that for May. The company shipped 2.54 million units to the segment in May, which means CPT's second-quarter shipments to the segment will only total 9-10 million units, falling far short of its goal of 14 million units.

For HannStar, it had expected its output of medium-size panels to grow sharply after starting processing them at its 5G facilities. But its second-quarter shipments of medium-size panels totaled only 1.98 million units, failing to reach its goal. HannStar has remarked that it will adjust its output for the medium-size segment in line with the market situation.

Small-size panel supplier TPO Displays said its orders remain stable although utilization has dropped to 90%. While the company's utilization once plunged to 40% in early 2007 when the panel industry was in the doldrums, TPO said this time its utilization will not fall as steeply.

Giantplus Technology's utilization for small-size panels has also declined to 90%, the industry sources said.

The sources said small-size panel suppliers that only have 3 or 3.5G lines are first cutting output of LCMs, which are usually customized products for specific clients. The makers would not make customized LCMs in anticipation of clients' orders to prevent inventoriy from piling up, the sources added.

Syntax-Brillian files for bankruptcy

Yvonne Yu, DIGITIMES, Taipei [Wednesday 9 July 2008]

Syntax-Brillian Corporation (SBC) has filed a petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code and the company announced that it has entered into an asset purchase agreement to sell Vivitar, the company's brand of digital still and video cameras to Olevia International Group (OIG), which is under common ownership with the TCV Group.

TCV Group is one of Syntax-Brillian's original partners for industrial and mechanical design and it provides the plastic injection molded parts for the Olevia branded high-definition widescreen LCD televisions. Under the terms of the transaction, in exchange for the purchased assets, Olevia International Group has agreed to assume $60.0 million of Syntax-Brillian's secured debt, according to a company press release.

A major Syntax-Brillian's investors, Taiwan-based home appliance maker Kolin responded yesterday (July 8) by stating that the company's investments in SBC totaled NT$144 million (US$4.74 million) and that investment was lost after SBC applied for restructuring.

The new operating company, TCV group will accept SBC's rights and duties for Kolin including all Kolin's accounts receivable, according to the company announcement.

This is not the first time SBC has faced problems in the market in 2008. The company delayed the reporting of its fiscal second quarter 2008 (ending December 31, 2007) and it was threatened with possible delisting from Nasdaq. In March of this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also issued a forfeiture order against SBC for violatating digital television rules concerning the importation and interstate shipment of analog televisions.

Samsung places LCD TV orders with TPV and Tatung

Max Wang, Taipei; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES [Wednesday 9 July 2008]

Samsung Electronics has placed LCD TV orders with Taiwan-based makers for the first time in order to increase its price competitiveness and further expand market share, according to industry sources.

TPV Technology and Tatung have both received OEM orders for 32-inch LCD TVs, for which Samsung still be in charge of the design and panel purchasing, the sources said, adding shipments are expected to begin as early as the third quarter.

Samsung, which has previously made all of its own LCD TVs, tried to seek OEM partners in Taiwan two years ago, but no deals were reached at the time.

Chief competitor Sony has been placing LCD TV orders with Taiwan makers for some time. Sony recently started a pricing campaign in North America to promote its 32- and 40-inch LCD TVs.

Samsung has been engaged in a neck-and-neck race with Sony and Vizio in the North American LCD TV market.