Korean Firms Grow LCD Share in Hard Times

As the ongoing global economic crisis continues to result in lower sales of LCD products (primarily HD sets, PC monitors and cellphone screens), demand for all LCD panels also has dropped considerably in the past year. Yet the South Koreans don’t see this as a problem, and in fact view the negative news as something positive for the Asian nation’s battles with LCD competitors Japan and China (Taiwan).

While conceding it’s hard for any nation to really benefit from a worldwide down economy, South Korea views the current fiscal malaise as a chance for a bit of one-upmanship on the other guys. “This challenging period will give us a good opportunity to widen our lead,” Lee Bang Soo of LG Display, the world's second-largest LCD panel-maker, told BusinessWeek. (Fellow Korean firm Samsung is the world’s top LCD panel maker.)

The biggest problem facing manufacturers now is that making LCD panels costs more than the panels can be sold for at a profit—leading Taiwan’s top makers to cut their output by at least 50 percent, which, in turn, led to diminished market share for several of them. Samsung, on the other hand, grew its LCD panel share by 8.5 percentage points to nearly 33 percent in the last quarter. (LG Display’s share also climbed, albeit slightly, to nearly 24 percent.)

The secret to success in a bad economic climate likely includes the fact that South Korean LCD panel firms are careful to maintain close ties with major LCD set makers, notably Sony—giving them a constant pathway to some of the world's bestselling brands. According to estimates by DisplaySearch, Samsung and Sony had a combined 42 percent market share of LCD HD sets TVs in the third quarter of 2008.

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