The current state of the notebook panel market shows that prices of notebook panels are likely to follow the same trend set by TV panels and monitor panels in 4Q21. In other words, notebook panels may see their prices plummet from the previous uptrend during the quarter.
Notebook brands are confident that a wave of demand for commercial notebooks will take the place of the prior demand for consumer notebooks. Objectively speaking, however, as soon as enterprises return to pre-pandemic business operations, they are unlikely to immediately spend a considerable amount of their budget on refreshing their existing hardware, including notebook computers.
On the other hand, although consumer purchases comprised most WFH demand for notebooks within the past year, these notebooks were purchased with subsidies funded by the buyers’ workplaces. Once consumers return to physical offices for work following the termination of WFH, their purchased notebooks will then be returned to the workplaces as well. Hence, notebook brands which previously anticipated an upcoming wave of replacement demand for business notebooks may be overly optimistic in their expectations. As such, although notebook shipment has remained bullish in 3Q21, notebook sales are likely to gradually slow down going forward, meaning notebook vendors and brands alike may enter into a key period of inventory adjustment in 4Q21. At the same time, notebook manufacturers will also decelerate their procurement activities for panels across their entire range of notebook computers.
The four largest notebook panel suppliers still exert significant influence over the market’s overall supply of notebook panels, although newcomer HKC is not to be underestimated in terms of its potential to do the same, even pertaining to quotes. While HKC did not ship a single notebook panel in 2020, the company has ambitiously targeted an annual shipment of 10 million units this year in light of the expanded production capacity for IPS panels at its Mianyang fab. In 1H21, however, the display industry suffered a severe shortage of driver ICs, whose manufacturers first sought to ensure a steady supply of driver ICs for their more established clients. Being a notebook panel supplier that had had no business foundation, HKC, as was typical of such upstart companies, had its supply of driver ICs accordingly “adjusted” by driver IC suppliers. HKC was hence unable to effectively raise its shipment for 1H21.
As the demand for panels from various end-product segments slows down in 2H21, the shortage situation of driver ICs is also expected to either lessen somewhat or even turn into a supply-demand equilibrium. As such, HKC is likely to procure more driver ICs from its suppliers and subsequently step up its notebook panel shipment to 3.5 million units in 3Q21 and 4 million units in 4Q21. HKC’s increase in panel shipment for 2H21, if proven successful, will place downward pressure on notebook panel prices, thereby weakening said prices going forward.
TrendForce believes that 11.6-inch panels, the market for which has been relatively bearish, will most likely experience a decline in quotes starting in early 4Q21. At this size, even Full HD/IPS products, quotes for which have been relatively high in 3Q21, are likely to see their quotes hold flat in November 2021 and experience a sudden downward pressure on prices at the end of the year. Should the COVID-19 pandemic be brought under control on a global scale, demand for consumer electronics would likely return to its cyclical downturn in 1Q22, and the notebook panel market, despite its relatively robust supply chain, would see a more severe overall price accordingly.