Beginning in the second quarter of 2021, LCD panel prices have kept increasing. Vendors expect that high prices will continue for at least 6 months.
There are a lot of manufacturers of LCD modules but there are only a few LCD panel or LCD glass manufacturers in the world. The reasons are:
- In order to build a LCD panel fab, billions of dollars of the equipment investment is needed
- The technology threshold is high. There are a lot of patent traps on the way
- Once in production, the fab has to keep running otherwise it is easy to lose money because of the heavy investment and high pay for the engineers
- Manufacturers have to keep on investing in order to keep technology and prices competitive.
Let’s take a look at LCD panel manufacturers.
- AUO (AU Optrinics Corporation) in Taiwan. It was formed in 2001 by the merger of Acer Display Technology Inc. and Unipac Optoelectronics Corporation. It has G3.5 to G8.5 production lines.
- BOE (Beijing Oriental Electronics Group Co., Ltd.) in China. The biggest LCD panel manufacturer in the world now. BOE has G4 (Chengdu), G5 (Beijing), G5.5 (Ordos), G6 (Hefei, Chengdu, Mianyang, Dalian), G8 (Beijing, Hefei, Chongqing), Fuqing, Dalian, Chongqing) and 10.5 (Hefei) production lines.
- CSOT (China Star Optoelectronics Technology) in China. It was joint ventured by TCL and Shenzhen Government. It mainly focuses on TV and cell phone screens. It has G6 (Shenzhen), G8.5 (Shenzhen, Suzhou,Wuhan) and G11 (Shenzhen) production lines.
- CTC (Century Technology Shenzhen Co Ltd.) in China. CTC is the joint venture by Foxconn and Shenzhen Government. CTC has a G5 production line.
- Giantplus Technology in China. In 2019, it was acquired by Toppan in Japan. Ortus Technology holds 53.1% Giantplus shares. Giantplus has a G3 and a G4 production lines.
- Hannstar (HSD, HannStar Display Corporation) in Taiwan. Hannstar has a G5 IPS production line.
- HKC in China. HKC mainly produces LCD panels for monitors. HKC has 4 G8.6 production lines in Chongqing, Chuzhou, Mianyang, Changsha.
- Innolux Corp. in Taiwan. One of the daughter companies of Foxconn/Hon Hai. In 2010, it bought the then famous LCD manufacturer, ChiMei, then changed its name to Innolux. It has G7.5 production lines.
- IVO (InfoVision Optoelectronics (Kunshan) Co., Ltd. IVO mainly produces laptop LCD panels. IVO has G5 production line.
- JDI (Japan Display Inc.) in Japan. Joint ventured by Sony, Hitachi and Toshiba in 2011. It mainly produces smaller size panels. JDI has G6 production line.
- Laibo (Shenzhen Laibao Hi-Tech Co. Ltd.) Laibo has a G8.5 (Wuhan) and a G2.5 (Shenzhen) production lines.
- LG Philips Displays in Korea and China. It used to be the 2nd biggest TFT LCD manufacturer. LG also planned to stop production but delayed the plan after prices increased. LG has G7.5 and G8.5 (Guangzhou) production lines
- Mantix Display Technology Co. Ltd. in China. Original Matix is the partner of CPT (Chunghwa Picture Tubes. After CPT filed bankruptcy in 2019, Mantix took over CPT G6 production line.
- Panasonic in Japan. Panasonic has a G8.5 production line.
- Panda (Nanjing CEC Panda LCD Technology Co.) in China. It got technology from Sharp. It mainly produces LCD panels for TV.
- Samsung Display in Korea. It used to be the biggest TFT LCD manufacturer before it was dethroned by BOE in 2019. Because of tough competition, Samsung planned to stop production in 2021 but delayed because of price increases during the pandemic. Samsung has G7 and G8.5 production lines.
- Shanghai Hehui Photoelectric Co., Ltd. Hehui also produces AMOLED only and has a G4.5 LTPS AMOLED production line.
- Sharp in Japan and China. The pioneer and queen of the LCD industry. Because of high cost and tough competition Sharp was acquired by Foxconn/Hon Hai in 2016. Sharp has G8, G8.5 (Suzhou), G10, G10.5 (Guangzhou) production lines.
- Tianma Microelectronics in China and Japan. In 2011, Tianma acquired 70% share from NEC to rename as “NLT Technologies.” Tianma has G4.5 (Shanghai, Chengdu, Wuhan), G5 (acquired from SVA: SVA Information Industry Co. Ltd.), G5.5 (Xianmen, Shanghai for AMOLED), G6 (Xiamen, Wuhan for AMOLED).
- Truly Opto-electronics in China. Truly was mentioned to have a G4.5 for AMOLED and a G2.5 for TFT LCD production lines.
- Visionox, which produces AMOLED and PMOLED. It has a G5.5 AMOLED and a G6 flexible AMOLED production line.
Strategies for buyers
If you are a big company with the LCD usage of corporations such as Apple or Amazon, there are worries of line-down situations. The most important thing is to secure LCD controllers instead of LCD panels. The reason is that the wafer shortage is more severe than LCD panels. You can contact the biggest LCD panel manufacturers like BOE or AUO to secure the panel use. Of course, you are still facing price hikes. Even TVs from Samsung, Sharp, Sony; and laptops from Lenovo and HP are increasing in price. The question is how high prices will go.
If you are a big company -- but not as big as Apple and Amazon – securing LCD controllers is still the priority and setting up supply and pricing agreements with LCD vendors. It will be better to work with CTP (capacitive touch panel) and module integration manufacturers like Orient Display to get the best overall cost.
If you are a medium or small company, the priority is to avoid a line-down. It is better to sign a Letter of Authorization indicating a guaranteed quantity with module integration manufacturers in order to secure key materials and freeze prices for around one year or even a year and a half.
Panel manufacturers predict that LCD panel prices will start to soften by the end of 2021 and the current IC supply frenzy will cool down in the third or fourth quarter of 2022.