Sharp plans international LCD TV push

Sharp plans international LCD TV push

Sharp plans to step up overseas promotions of flat-panel Liquid crystal display (LCD) television sets in the coming year and expects to see total shipments to the US and Europe more than double.

It also predicted 2004 will be the first year in which its total overseas sales of LCD TVs beat those in Japan.

The company expects to sell 3 million LCD TVs in fiscal year 2004, which ends in March 2005.

Of those, about 1.2 million would be sold in Japan and about 1.8 million in overseas markets, group general manager of Sharp’s Audio-Visual Systems Group, Takashi Okuda, said.

Sharp expects to make the majority of its overseas sales in the US where it is targeting sales of 1 million sets, with a further 650,000 sets in Europe and the remainder in other markets.

For the current fiscal year, to the end of March 2004, the company expects total LCD TV sales will be 1.5 million, of which Japanese sales will total 770,000 units and overseas sales 730,000 units.

Of the overseas sales, about 390,000 units would be sold in the US and 280,000 units in Europe, Okuda said.

The company is hoping that sales will be boosted by high-definition television coverage of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Major sporting events, such as the Olympics and the soccer World Cup, have boosted flat-panel and high-definition television sales in Japan over the past few years.

However, Sharp has high hopes in more areas than just televised sports. It is also looking to benefit from lower prices that are the result of its new Japanese LCD manufacturing plant.

The first six TVs based on panels produced at the factory in Kameyama were unveiled last week. The range features 26-inch, 32-inch and 36-inch panels, which are compatible with Japanese digital broadcasting standards. They can use broadband Internet connections for firmware upgrades and, later this year, a planned Internet content service.

Sharp’s international marketing push will kick off when the US versions of the TVs go on sale in April.

The new production line in Kameyama accepts larger sheets of mother glass, the base glass on which LCD panels are made, so more panels can be produced from a single sheet of glass, therefore driving down the cost of the panel.

This resulted in a drop of about 10 per cent in the price of the finished set to customers, Okuda said.

Prices for the six sets in the Japanese domestic market are expected to range from $US6850 for a 37-inch model to $US3980 for a 26-inch model. The sets go on sale in Japan in stages between February 11 and March 23.

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