Matsushita Plasma Display Panel plans to build what it expects will be the world's largest volume manufacturing plant for plasma display panels (PDPs) when it is complete in 2007.
The plant represents an investment of $US831 million and its construction is important if Matsushita PDP wants to maintain its share of an increasingly competitive market. Matsushita Electric Industrial, better known as Panasonic, owns 75 per cent of the joint venture, and Toray Industries owns the remaining 25 per cent.
The factory will be capable of producing 250,000 panels (42-inch equivalent) per month when it reaches full production, which should be in early 2007.
The plant will be built in Amagasaki, a town in western Japan close to Matsushita's headquarters in Osaka. It will be the company's third in the area and fourth worldwide: it has another plant in Shanghai, China.
The three existing plants produce a total of 90,000 panels a month. Expansion at the second Osaka plant is expected to take total monthly production to 130,000 panels by April 2005. This will rise further when initial production begins at the new factory in November 2005, and is expected to hit 380,000 panels per month in early 2007.
Global demand for PDPs is rising fast and this is expected to continue as economies of scale push down the price of the panels and products that they are built into.
The company also expects a boost from events such as this year's Olympic Games, the Euro 2004 soccer tournament and the 2006 World Cup, according to senior vice-president of Matsushita's Panasonic AVC Networks Company, Tsutomu Ueda.
Global PDP shipments in the fourth quarter of 2003 were 613,000 units, a rise of 176 per cent on the same period a year earlier, according to US market analyst DisplaySearch. By value, the market was worth $US846 million in the quarter, a 160 per cent jump on the year earlier.
In addition to Matsushita PDP, other leading panel makers include Samsung, LG Electronics, Fujitsu Hitachi Display. and NEC, which is selling its business to Pioneer.
Matsushita's main rivals in the PDP manufacturing business have recently announced plans to increase production with new factories, although none of the planned plants are on the same scale as that of Matsushita PDP.
Both the South Korean rivals are investing in new production. Samsung SDI is investing $US494 million during this year to build a third production line to take its monthly panel capacity to 250,000 units while LG Electronics is targeting monthly production of 140,000 panels by the end of this year with a new line.
Fujitsu Hitachi Display disclosed its expansion plans in March. It is investing $US657 million to build a new factory in southern Japan. When it is complete in 2007, the company's total monthly production is expected to be 250,000 panels.