In 2021, shipments of notebook computer panels increased quarter by quarter with record highs posted in each quarter. In addition to strong demand for display terminals, panel makers continued to invest in capacity and resources for notebook computer panel production. With notebook panel shipments hitting a record high in 2021, panel makers also set fairly aggressive BP targets for 2022.
Panel makers shipped 187.7 million notebook panels before the COVID-19 outbreak in 2019 and up to 287.9 million in 2021, an increase of more than 50% in two years. In 2022, panel makers planned to grow by an additional 14.1% to 328.5 million units. With such high expectations, the sudden shipment revisions in 1H22 were urgent and violent, catching panel manufacturers off guard.
In 1H22, terminal demand and inventory problems materialized at the same time
The Russian-Ukrainian war in 1Q22 had a dramatic impact on oil production capacity. In addition, strong terminal demand in the past few quarters drove up the prices of various commodities, causing the annual growth rate of inflation to climb, in turn changing interest policies from central banks to focus on suppressing terminal demand and inflation, and leading to plummeting terminal demand.
Shipments of whole devices in 1Q22 were lower than single-quarter shipments of any quarter in 2021, meaning pandemic-induced demand had weaker since the outbreak of COVID-19. However, China imposed restrictions to prevent resurgences of the pandemic in 2Q22. These measures affected the assembly capacity of notebook computer OEMs, and also reduced 2Q22 notebook computers shipments by 17.7%. Looking into the background of 2Q22, when China’s lockdown measures were implemented, brands did not scramble to request OEMs resume production and supply as they had in the past two years. Instead, brands lowered their annual BP and component orders, reflecting that when brands express a bearish attitude regarding waning pandemic-induced boons and pessimism towards future demand, canceled orders in the supply chain is unavoidable.
Before 1Q22, panels have always resided on the top 3 list of notebook computer components. Therefore, notebook computer brands have adopted overbooking and accumulated inventory in the past two years to respond to strong terminal demand and support performance. The average supply-demand ratio for the past 12 years of whole notebook computer panel devices fell at 12.5%. The supply-demand ratio exceeded the long-term average of more than 18% beginning in 3Q21, reaching an ultra-high level of 28% in 1Q22. A relatively high supply-demand ratio means that panel inventory on the brand side accumulated to a certain extent in 2H21 and rose sharply in 1Q22. A higher inventory level will lead to future revenue support when demand is strong but, when market demand reverses, high inventory becomes a heavy burden on financial reports.
In 2Q22, notebook computer panel shipments dropped by 24.3% QoQ, and this quarterly decline was much higher than the 17.7% QoQ decline in shipments of whole devices. This means that brands have begun to curb inventory and greatly reduce panel purchases. Looking at a wider perspective, the beginning of every downward economic cycle related to consumer electronics is accompanied by demand reversal and inventory problems. The Russian-Ukrainian war was only the last straw that led to this reversal．
TrendForce’s research shows that material shortages, logistical delays, and relief subsidies for the American people not only supported global TV panel shipments in 1H21, but also drove an extended rise in quotations. However, as end product inventory climbed, stocking momentum fell rapidly in 2H21, not only inducing a sluggish peak season, but also bringing about a 1H22:2H22 shipment ratio that deviated from historical precedent. Shipment volume was not the only performance statistic to fluctuate in 2021. Originally planned factory closures were also delayed due to market demand, again transforming the entire industry landscape.
Looking forward to 2022, the global display production capacity of large generational fabs in 2022 will continue to grow through OLED production capacity generated by Korean panel manufacturers, the extension of LCD production, and continuing injection of maximum production capacity into the market from certain LCD production lines originating from panel manufacturers in other regions. Thus, overall TV panel supply is expected to spike dramatically. Although demand in emerging markets has recovered, TV panel quotations are also more prone to manipulation by branded panel companies than in 2021. A certain amount of momentum is expected in the end market for the stocking of TV panels. However, considering continually rising shipping and logistics costs, the unresolved global inflation issue, and life gradually returning to normal will inhibit the shipment performance of TV sets, demand for panels will also see an impact.
Therefore, after considering a number of factors, TrendForce expects global TV panel shipments to reach 281 million units in 2022, with an annual growth rate of 4.3%. As panel makers continue to implement a strategy of increasing panel size and overall shipments increase, positive growth is expected in size of shipped area.
The current global Gen5 and above large generational fab LCD panel supply and demand model shows that the growth rate of demand area cannot keep up with the growth rate of supply area and the shortfall between supply and demand in 2022 will be larger than that in 2021, which also suggests that panel manufacturers will meet tougher challenges in 2022. It is worth mentioning that there are still several key factors to be observed in 2022. For example, the closing schedule of LCD production lines at Korean panel factories, the adjustment of TV and IT panel capacity allocation, and the impact of the pandemic and war on whole device demand and component supply will all be key indicators of display industry trends leading into 2022.
Continued oversupply in the LCD display industry has led to a decline in the YoY profitability of panel manufacturers. As one of the key countries leading the technological development of the global display industry, Korean panel manufacturers took the lead in announcing a cutback in LCD TV products and a transition to OLED distribution.
The capacity of OLED large generational fabs building gradually, market share seized through slight price reductions
In 2021, the production capacity of LG Display’s Gen8.5 line in Guangzhou and Paju, South Korea continued to climb, obviously contributing to an increase in shipments. In addition, as OLED pricing dipped and LCD pricing advanced, the price gap between OLED TV panels and LCD panels diminished to a multiple of 2.5 in January, with the differential narrowing to a multiple of 1.8 by the middle of the year. In addition to the dwindling price divergence, OLED TVs are positioned as high-specification products, priced higher than ordinary LCD TVs at retail. After the contraction in profits posted by LCD brands, these companies delved industriously into the OLED market, driving growth in annual shipments of OLED TV up as much as 70.8% to 8.0 million units.
Supply completely dominated by Korean panel manufacturers, the trend will change in 2024 at the earliest
As an industry leader, LG Display officially began mass production of white OLED TV panels in 2017. LG Display’s hold on the exclusive supply of OLED products was broken after Samsung Display officially mass-produced QD OLED TV panels at the end of 2021. However, due to differing technologies, LG remains an exclusive supplier in the realm of white OLED TV panels.
In terms of Taiwanese manufacturers, AUO and Innolux have focused on the rollout of Mini and Micro LED panels but have not put much effort into large generational fabs for OLED panels. Japanese panel makers Sharp Display & SPDG likewise have not given OLEDs much thought. In terms of Chinese panel makers, although these companies are actively building small and medium generational fabs for OLED panels, the rollout of large generational fabs for OLED panels is still relatively slow. Therefore, the entire market structure may need to wait until 2024, when TCL’s T8 Gen8.5 inkjet OLED production line hits heavy volume before there is a chance to see any changes. However, according to the capacity observation currently planned by TCL, overall supply will be quite limited in the initial stages. Although HKC’s Changsha plant has a planned production capacity corresponding to a large generational fab for OLED panels, there is no clear plan for a specific mass-production timeframe. Thus, TrendForce expects that Korean panel makers will remain the vanguard of the trend towards OLED TV panels in the next 3 to 4 years.
Benefiting from expanded introduction of AMOLED mobile phone models by Apple, Samsung and Chinese brands, the market penetration rate of AMOLED panels for mobile phones in 2021 was 42%, according to TrendForce‘s investigations. In 2022, continuous investment undertaken by numerous panel factories to expand AMOLED production lines will drive AMOLED panel penetration rate to an estimated 46%. However, TrendForce further asserts that the continued tight supply of AMOLED DDI and the willingness of mobile phone brands to expand the use of AMOLED panels will be the keys influencing AMOLED market penetration rate next year.
Continued tightness in AMOLED DDI supply for mobile phones
The AMOLED DDI process requires dedicated medium voltage 8V processes at the 40nm and 28nm nodes. However, the supply of dedicated process capacity in 2021 is limited. In addition, Samsung’s Austin, Texas fab was shut down due to a snowstorm in early 2021, resulting in serious shortages of AMOLED DDI. New capacity in 2022 includes UMC at the 28nm node and SMIC at the 40nm node. However, since capacity and expanded capacity still cannot effectively meet the various brand’s demand for AMOLED DDI, Samsung’s fab will continue to reduce OLED DDIC production scale in the future. Stocking issues are expected to plague AMOLED DDI continuing into 2022.
TrendForce states, UMC’s primary expansion plan for 28nm AMOLED DDI will be completed by the end of 2023, so AMOLED DDI supply tightness is expected to be alleviated in 2023. In addition, other foundries have plans to develop dedicated AMOLED DDI processes but, due to a belated development schedule, these plans will not be able to address the AMOLED DDI shortage in 2022. Facing limitations on dedicated AMOLED DDI production capacity, traditional front-line DDI design houses are actively booking the majority of production capacity, while other DDI design houses are also competing for limited production capacity in order to enter the AMOLED panel factory supply chain.
Mobile phone brands expand their willingness to adopt AMOLED panels
Facing the gradual maturity of AMOLED panel technology and the continuous improvement of production yields, AMOLED market penetration rate will increase from 42% in 2021 to 46% in 2022. This will reduce the market share of LTPS panels in the mid-tier market and drive panel makers to transfer LTPS production capacity to medium size applications. However, mobile phone brands face the risk of AMOLED DDI continuing to being out of stock in 2022. In addition to the high price of AMOLED panels and the steady increase in the pricing of other semiconductor components, in order for mobile phone brands to maintain profitability and achieve annual shipment goals, TrendForce expects that a small number of AMOLED products may switch over to LCD panels to pad shipments in the mid-to-low-end mobile phone market, allowing LTPS panel makers to gain a bit of breathing room in the mid-end market.
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The impact on display panel production in China caused by the ongoing power outage has been manageable, although assembly plants in the downstream supply chain and component makers（for metal and plastic parts, for example）in the upstream supply chain have had to suspend operations as a result. Nevertheless, assuming these work stoppages conclude by the end of September, the aforementioned companies in the downstream/upstream supply chains will likely be able to make up for their lost production capacities by issuing overtime work. Hence, the power outage’s impact on their operations is ultimately expected to be rather limited.
In addition, it appears that the power outage will NOT affect the installation of new production capacities at all. However, given that power outages have continually taken place in cities including Guangzhou and Suzhou, attention needs to be paid to whether such power outages become a regular, cyclical occurrence for various cities in the future, especially without prior warning. Frequent, unannounced power outages may pose a challenge to panel manufacturers’ capacity allocation efforts.