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Digitimes Insight: Japan small- and medium-size LCD panel firms gear up competition
Jason Yang, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei [Tuesday 21 June 2011]

The media in Japan reported the news of an integrated new firm by Sony Mobile Display and Toshiba Mobile Display (TMD) on June 7, 2011. Shipments of small- and medium-size panels of the new firm could exceed Sharp and become the world's largest panel maker. This will also retrieve the lost market shares from South Korea- and Taiwan-based competitors. However, Sharp has been shifting production and market strategies by using its 8G production line (2,160mmx2,460mm, monthly production capacity of 100,000 glass substrates) to produce small- and medium-size panels and will incept the production of oxide semiconductor TFT. Therefore, even if Sony Mobile Display and TMD complete integration, their largest production line is only 4.5G, and it would be difficult to compete with Sharp in the Japan market.

Hence, the integration between Sony Mobile Display and TMD is not only to gain market share of the high-end small- and medium-size TFT LCD panels, but also to improve on the technology and production schedule of AMOLED where South Korea-based firms are the market leaders. The new firm has been anticipated to combine the AMOLED and oxide semiconductor TFT technology development by Sony Mobile Display and the production capacity of LTPS TFT LCD by TMD to bring Japan-based firms to the leading position in such technologies. In addition, some media in Japan stated that Sony and Toshiba anticipate the semi-official investment foundation for promoting industries to provide JPY 1 trillion (US$12 billion) to fund the new integrated company. The foundation will hold 70-80% of the new company's shares and the government will direct the development of the company. Sony and Toshiba have refused to verify the news.

Overall, Sony and Toshiba might integrate the current panel technology and capacity through government funding to gain significant market share. However, difficulties still exist for Sony and Toshiba to lead the industry due to aggressive capacity expansion by Sharp and low prices by Taiwan-based panel makers.

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