PDP module shipments rose 10% to 1.39M units from April to May and revenue increased 6%, Displaybank reported on Monday in the company’s monthly report on PDP module shipments. The difference in the increases between units shipped and revenue was due to a 4% drop in ASP to $445 in May.
Senior Analyst and Editor
A surge in shipments from Matsushita pushed that company into the sales lead, followed by Samsung SDI (SDI) and LG Electronics (LGE). Matsushita’s surge was so dramatic it reduced May shipments from Korean suppliers to 55% of the total in May from 63% in March, when they benefited from a Matsushita sales dip.
The most popular size range was 40 to 49 inches, with 56.9% of total shipments (790k units). The 50-to-59-inch range accounted for 26.1% (360k units). Shipments of Matsushita’s full HD 42-inch units increased rapidly during Q2′08, and sales of that company’s new 46-inch FHD panel were reported as strong. Shipments of full HD modules increased from 190k units in March to 290k units in May, with the market share captured by full HD increasing from 14% to 21%.
The 30-to-39-inch range that did so well during Q1, thanks to the popularity of 32-inch PDP-TVs in China, decreased its share because of the earthquake in China and the introduction of low-priced 32-inch LCD panels. The range commanded 15.6% of the market.
Shipments are expected to increase steadily in Q3, Displaybank predicts, with LGE expecting a boost by launching a 37-inch module in the second half of the year. Matsushita plans to ramp a new production line during the second half of the year, and Hitachi "is re-aligning itself," according to Displaybank. Hitachi’s share of the plasma market is in the low single digits, so it would not be surprising if the company decides to "re-align" itself out of the business in the foreseeable future.
But prospects for the second half of the year are murky. Prices of 42-inch and 50-inch HD PDP modules decreased by a whopping $13 and $30 in June, and Displaybank researcher Jusy Hong expects prices to continue dropping for a while, even as PDP module shipments increase during the latter half of the year.
Both Samsung and LG have decided to defer any sizable new investments in PDP capacity and focus on enhancing profitability. LG made an announcement to this effect in April. On July 1, Samsung announced that the Samsung Electronics Digital Media Video Display Business will operate Samsung SDI’s plasma display panel business. Anyone who has experienced the intense rivalry between Samsung Electronics and Samsung SDI will realize this is far from being a routine reorganization.
A day later, Ji San Kim, a researcher at Kiwoon Securities, supplied some analysis when he said, "In the situation that PDP is quickly losing its stable position in the flat-TV market, Samsung Electronics intends to integrate the module business to increase efficiency. …Without additional investment in PDP, Samsung Electronics is expected to pursue a conservative strategy in simplifying the business structure by focusing on the demand for TV."
TV manufacturers have received the message that consumers are at least as interested in product design as in incremental performance improvements. LG has been listening, and, also on July 1, announced plans to launch the Model PG61, the world’s first frameless plasma TV. The set looks much like a simple sheet of black glass, with no bezel.
So where do the speakers go? LG says they’re invisible, but have been specially tuned by audio expert Mark Levinson to provide viewers "with amazingly crisp, rich sound quality" and says the product "eliminate[s] traditional speaker drivers and associated grills." We determined at CES that the set uses an NXT-like (but "not NXT") technology that places transducers on the display panel to produce sound.
If the looks of a premium product equate to market share in a difficult economy, LG should have it made. But do they? After all, this isn’t 2007 any more. If LG and Samsung go for position and Matsushita goes for infrastructure and volume, who wins? Or maybe it’s not a zero-sum game. Can these strategies turn out to be complementary? Maybe Matsushita can be Chevrolet, with its two Korean competitors taking the roles of Buick and Oldsmobile. Whoops! Not Oldsmobile! What was I thinking?
And, to shake things up a little more, we just learned that Pioneer is now negotiating with Field Emission Technologies, which is about 1/3 owned by Sony, to buy its PDP line. Can FEDs thrive if PDPs can’t?