ISE & Sharp

Apologies for the late shipment of the newsletters this week. We tried to keep up while dealing with the ISE overload, but this year the event went on until Friday afternoon and we needed all the time!

Our front page (in LDM) this week covers the Sharp possible plan of making LCDs for TVs in the US. From a personal point of view, it seems to me very unlikely that such a plan will happen. Over the years, I have been involved in a number of potential projects to bring FPD manufacturing to Europe, in one way or another. Europe has a significantly higher tariff barrier than the US and has much worse logistics from Asia than the US, and yet these projects really haven’t got that close to fruition, so unless President Trump does something very dramatic, it’s hard to see a panel fab being built.

Apart from anything else, Trump’s views are so far disassociated from the historical mainstream, and the time that it would take to build a full supply chain in the US would mean a very big chance that by the time the fab was built, Trump would be gone. Plenty of people think he won’t last long, but even if he avoids anything that might cause his presidency to be cut short, it’s hard to believe that he would win a second term (although stranger things have happened!). Nevertheless, an investment in billions that might be made out of date before it becomes productive doesn’t sound like a probability. Still, Foxconn is very driven by Terry Gou’s views and when it’s an individual in charge, you never know.

Sharp’s office in Stockley Park, UKAnyway, at ISE this week, there was a significant difference in the size of the Sharp booth and clearly the investment by Foxconn has also had an impact. The company also had a lot more new products than it has traditionally had in a single show and we hear that the pace of decision making and innovation has changed markedly. Despite the Brexit vote, Sharp has recently moved the running of its visual products group to the UK (from Munich) and that will mean changes. It will be interesting to see if the progress can be continued despite the disruption that such moves inevitably cause. LG, of course, has moved its European operation in the other direction from the UK to Germany. Just as currencies go up and down because some think it’s time to buy, while others think selling is the right move, the impact of Brexit clearly is seen differently in different companies.

Coming back to Sharp, its business in Europe is still dominated by printing, so there remains much to be done to build up the visual division if the firm plans to catch up with Samsung, LG, NEC and Philips as a significant player in the European LFD market.

We’ll have our full ISE report (for LDM subscribers) in the week starting 20th of February.