Global shipments of LCD (liquid crystal display) panels rose nearly 38 per cent last year led by sales of laptop PCs and LCD TVs, but the outlook for 2008 has been dimmed by economic uncertainty in the US.
Shipments of LCD panels used in all products rose to 371 million units last year, up from 270 million in 2006, according to Witsview Technology, an LCD industry researcher based in Taipei. Shipments fell across all major segments in December, the traditional time of year when major holiday shopping ends in places such as North America and Europe.
LCD TV panel shipments slowed 12.2 per cent month-to-month in December to 7.9 million units. Sales of LCD panels used in computer monitors fell 3.6 per cent in December, while laptop PC panels slipped by just 3.8 per cent.
The laptop segment was bolstered by brisk sales of mainstream-sized 15.4-inch panels and strong growth in 17-inch panels used in laptops, Witsview reported. Shipments of the 17-inch panels actually grew 13 per cent in December compared to November. The figures put an unusual spin on laptop demand. A number of companies have put resources into developing smaller-sized laptops with small screens for better portability, but Witsview's figures on 17-inch panel shipments show many users prefer larger sizes.
The story for the LCD panel industry in 2007 was one of famine and feast. The industry opened the year in over supply as a few new manufacturing plants ramped to heavy production levels and flooded the market with excess panels, Witsview said. By mid-year, companies had reined in production and strong sales of TVs, laptops and monitors pushed prices higher for seven consecutive months. But as the year closed, it appeared to set up 2008 for a repeat of last year.
Witsview believes strong LCD TV demand in the US ahead of the American Football championship, the Super Bowl, coupled with demand in China ahead of the Lunar New Year in February, will help stabilise large-sized panel shipments in the early part of this year. Once those holidays pass, however, worldwide economic problems may impact consumer buying power in key markets such as the US, where some economists are already forecasting a recession. LCD shipments could dip, with a rebound in the summer as people buy new LCD TVs ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing in August.