As Samsung Display (SDC) decided to extend the manufacturing operations of its Korea-based Gen 8.5 LCD fab, and tier-two panel suppliers are still slow to reassign their production capacities from TV panels to IT panels, TrendForce expects total TV panel shipment for 2021 to reach 269 million units, which is relatively unchanged compared to 2020 levels. Panel suppliers will continue to focus on large-sized TV panels this year in response to several industry-wide developments, including M&A, reduced production capacities, improved manufacturing technologies, and increased panel demand. Furthermore, as the persistent price hike of TV panels continues to reduce the profit margins of TV sets, TV brands have started to gravitate towards larger, more profitable TV sizes. TrendForce therefore expects the average TV panel size this year to increase by 1.6 inches and move towards 50 inches.
TrendForce analyst Jeanette Chan indicates that the shift towards large-sized panels is an effective means of expending the production capacity of panel suppliers. Case in point, due to the limited production capacity for TV panels in 1H21, not only are TV panels currently in short supply, but TV panel prices are also on the rise. On the other hand, the demand for TV panels in 2H21 will depend on several key factors: first, whether the increased retail price of TV sets will hamper consumer demand; second, whether the pandemic will be effectively brought under control as more countries begin vaccinations; third, whether the impending global economic recovery will be a significant one. And finally, whether a market bubble will appear as a result of TV manufacturers’ overbooking panel orders in anticipation of potential hindrances including the price hike of materials in the upstream supply chain, the shortage of glass substrates due to such accidents as facility fires, the shortage of IC supply, and the extended shipping times.
Thanks to their persistently rising production capacity and successful acquisitions, China-based BOE and CSOT, the two largest panel suppliers in the world, are expected to collectively account for about 40% of total TV panel shipment this year. At the same time, BOE and CSOT are actively improving their technologies and making a push for high-end products, such as 8K, ZBD, and AM Mini LED. By leveraging their improved technologies and available funds, the two companies are likely to extend their operations upstream by systematically undertaking vertical integrations.
On the other hand, HKC, which is currently raising its production capacity, has garnered much attention in the market amidst the current shortage situation of TV panels. Along with its Changsha-based H5 fab, which is set to kick off mass production shortly, HKC possesses four Gen 8.6 fabs in total. By raising its production capacity and engaging in additional strategic partnerships with tier-one TV brands, HKC is expected to enter the top three ranking of panel suppliers by TV panel shipment for the first time ever, with a shipment of about 41.91 million units this year, a 33.7% increase YoY.
Taiwan-based AUO and Innolux are expected to experience YoY decreases in their shipments this year as their production capacities are relatively limited, although both companies’ efforts to optimize their products and engage in cross-industry partnerships have brought them certain competitive advantages. In particular, AUO is leading the panel industry in developing not only ultra-high-end products, such as 8K+ZBD, but also Micro LED displays, whereas Innolux holds competitive advantages in product diversity and in-house ODM services. It should be pointed out that these two Taiwanese companies are able to deal with the current IC shortage situation better than their competitors because their parent companies have longstanding business relationships with IC design companies.
With regards to Korean suppliers, although LGD and SDC have both prolonged their LCD manufacturing operations in Korea in order to satisfy the current bullish market demand, the two companies are primarily focusing on transitioning their offerings to new products. LGD will expand the OLED production capacity of its Guangzhou fab in 2Q21 as part of its effort to dominate the OLED market. As for SDC, the company has dropped out of the top six ranking this year as a result of its lowered production capacity. However, new TV sets featuring SDC’s QD-OLED panels are expected to officially hit the market in 4Q21, in turn driving SDC’s yearly TV panel shipment to 2 million units in 2022.
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TrendForce’s investigations finds that LG manufactured merely 30.6 million smartphones last year, which represented a 2.4% market share. The Korean company took ninth place in the global ranking of smartphone brands by production volume in 2020. At the start of this year, LG began to consider either selling or shuttering its mobile phone unit.
Around that same time, it also suspended the R&D of new smartphone models. On April 5, LG announced the decision to fold up the mobile phone unit as it was ultimately unable to offset consecutive years of financial losses it suffered in the smartphone market. Based on the company’s current plan, the mobile phone unit will wind down its operation by the end of July, while its smartphone manufacturing operations will cease by the end of 2Q21.
TrendForce therefore expects LG to occupy a lower than 1% share in the smartphone market this year. Incidentally, the conditions for survival for smartphone brands have further deteriorated on account of the increasingly fierce market competition as well as the recent and continuing hike in component prices. Taken altogether, these developments will reinforce the trend of the dominant brands having more and more market share in the future at the expense of the smaller brands.
Regarding LG’s performance in the smartphone market during the recent years, the company spared no effort in high-end R&D, with such results as the LG Wing with a rotating screen and the LG Rollable, which, as the name suggests, features a side-rolling display. The latter model remained a concept and did not enter mass production.
Despite its efforts, LG however continued to lag behind in sales when compared with the other major brands, such as Samsung and Apple. LG had a relatively weak position in the high-end segment of the smartphone market. As for the mid-range and entry-level segments, LG could not match Chinese brands in terms of pricing. To optimize its cost structure, LG expanded the share of device production going to ODMs. Nevertheless, this action was too late to turn things around.
Samsung, Lenovo, and Xiaomi are likely to benefit from LG’s exit from the North and Latin American markets
LG’s smartphone business has become unprofitable since 2Q15; and its financial losses were further exacerbated after it made a gradual exit from the Chinese market in 2016. As of 4Q20, LG’s smartphone business suffered 23 consecutive quarters of financial losses, which totaled about 5 trillion KRW. Despite LG’s limited market share, however, its exit from the various regional smartphone markets will still benefit its competitors in those markets, in particular, the mid-range segment in North America and Latin America.
With regards to North America, LG’s market share there will be split among its Android-based competitors, including Samsung, Lenovo (Motorola), and other in-house, private brands owned by domestic telecom operators. With regards to Latin America, on the other hand, LG’s exit will more noticeably benefit Lenovo (Motorola) and Xiaomi.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, as vaccinations begin to take place around the world, TrendForce expects the smartphone industry, which fulfills a basic living necessity, to make a gradual recovery as well. Thanks to the general public’s cyclical replacement demand, as well as growing demand from emerging markets, total smartphone production remains unaffected by LG’s exit. As a result, TrendForce maintains its smartphone production forecast of 1.36 billion units for 2021, a 9% increase YoY.
For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at email@example.com