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．
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According to TrendForce, based on the quarterly supply-demand ratio, the difference in supply and demand in 1Q22 rose by 4.9% to 8.9% compared with 4Q22, much higher than supply and demand equilibrium at 5%. However, since panel makers still had room to build up inventories and IT panel pricing was still at a profitable level when at equilibrium, there remained an upside to panel makers’ overall operating interest, so there was no operation adjustment at the time.
Whether TV panel demand or IT panel demand, the magnitude of corrections began to intensify in 2Q22. Since the production capacity of panel manufacturers continues trending towards growth, the supply-demand ratio is expected to widen to 11.8% and the severity of the imbalance is set to return to 2008 financial crisis levels. As TVs account for nearly 70-80% of LCD production capacity, LCD TV panel quotations have again dropped, falling to record lows. For example, 32-inch HD quotations have fallen to US$28 and 43-inch FHDs have fallen to US$55.
In light of this situation, panel manufacturers have begun looking for solutions. Other than reducing the cost of upstream materials, the most effective way to buoy pricing is to control output, so news of production cuts began to appear in 2Q22. According to research from TRI, in 2Q22, the LCD glass output area of panel makers’ large generational fabs fell by 3.3% compared with their original planning. At the same time, due to Samsung’s announcement of progressively strict procurement control, TV panel shipments are expected to be downgraded by 1.2% compared with original planning. Therefore, the supply-demand ratio will not change much as panel makers reduce production in an insignificant manner.
No peak in peak season, production reduction in 3Q22 set in stone, stocking momentum expected to pick up in 4Q22
Moving into July 2022, in the past, Q3 was traditionally the time for panel stocking. Originally, panel manufacturers expected the seasonal effect to stabilize or even produce a slight rebound in TV panel prices but the market did not react as positively as panel manufacturers believed. The world’s largest TV brand Samsung once again revised its TV panel purchases downward in 3Q22 from its original plan of 14 million units to 8-8.5 million units. Rumors that purchase volume was even less than 8 million units cannot be ruled out, again pressuring TV panel quotations which were already under pressure to keep from selling at a loss. This news can be considered the straw that broke the market’s back.
If production is not reduced, the supply-demand ratio in 3Q22 will remain on par with the ratio before production cuts in 2Q22 (11.8%). It is conceivable that if inventory from 2Q22 added, panel makers will not only face the risk of an inventory explosion, but also if the price drops again, it cannot be ruled out that all panel sizes will ship at a loss in 3Q22 because pricing has gradually approached Bom Cost. Therefore, some panel makers have begun to plan a large-scale reduction in capacity utilization in 3Q22.
HKC, CSOT, AUO, and Sharp, who count Samsung as their primary customer, are among the panel factories that will see a significant reduction in capacity utilization in 3Q22. Huike, CSOT, and AUO have all planned to greatly reduce production by 32%, 20%, and 25%, respectively, compared with their original plans for their factory campuses. Considering the high cost of its Japanese factory, Sharp needs to maintain a high utilization rate. The company only adjusted Guangzhou Gen10.5, with overall utilization rate expected at only 70-75%.
As the LCD industry bellwether, BOE is facing external resistance. Currently, there are no plans to significantly reduce the capacity utilization rate of its entire production line, with utilization adjustment only planned for the Fuqing (B10) Gen8.5, Chengdu (B19) Gen8.6+, and Hefei (B9) Gen10.5 factory campuses. Overall impact is expected to be 10-15%. CHOT plans to reduce its capacity utilization rate by 10-15% in 3Q22 compared with their original plans due to accumulating more than a month of inventory of their main product, 50-inch TV panels.
If panel makers really control production as suggested by rumors, the supply-demand ratio will have a chance to move to 6.4% in 3Q22. Although a point close to equilibrium cannot be achieved immediately, effective output control will prevent the market from deteriorating further and facilitate advantageous price movement to mitigate or even stabilize the downtrend.
If panel makers continue to control capacity utilization in 4Q22, the price of LCD TV panels is expected to fall into a sweet spot, international brands are expected to perform purchase volume adjustments in Q2 and early spring in 2023, and Chinese brands will also stock up ahead of schedule in 4Q22. Market conditions are expected to have a chance to improve in 4Q22, with a good start for 2023. Otherwise, market conditions will deteriorate again in 4Q22, which will not only cast a shadow on the beginning of 2023, but may also force some panel makes to shut down certain factory campuses due to unbearable losses.
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The massive rise in market demand for notebook computers in response to distance learning needs and WFH applications from 2020 to 2021 has generated not only a double-digit growth in notebook panel shipment, but also a price hike of more than 40% for notebook panels, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. As various suppliers subsequently scramble to manufacture OLED, LTPS, and oxide panels, TrendForce forecasts these high-end notebook panels to reach a 17.8% market share in 2021 and 21.4% in 2022.
Panels based on OLED technology are primarily supplied by SDC, whose OLED notebook panel shipment for 2020 reached 800,000 pcs. SDC is expected to ship more than four million pcs of OLED notebook panels in 2021, with room for further growth in 2022. In addition to SDC, EDO is also expected to begin mass producing OLED notebook panels in 2H21-1H22. As such, TrendForce expects OLED panels to reach a 1.3% penetration rate in the overall notebook panel market this year. Although BOE and CSOT are currently fully engaged in Hybrid OLED development, Hybrid OLED panels will not enter mass production until 2023 due to technological and cost-related bottlenecks that are yet to be resolved.
The top three suppliers of LTPS panels are, in order, AUO, CSOT, and Tianma. Thanks to such advantages as low power consumption and narrow borders, LTPS panels are widely used in high-end notebook computers. In the overall notebook panel market, LTPS panels are expected to reach a penetration rate of 3.7% this year. With regards to LTPS suppliers, AUO will likely expand its L6K fab’s production capacity of LTPS notebook panels in 2022. Innolux, on the other hand, currently allocates the LTPS production capacity in its Luzhu-based panel fab primarily for smartphone displays. Innolux is expected to mass produce LTPS panels for notebooks some time in 2H21. CSOT and Tianma will likewise gradually increase the share of LTPS notebook panels in their overall panel production in spite of their lack of capacity expansion plans at the moment.
Finally, oxide panels are primarily supplied by LGD, Sharp, and BOE. Much like LTPS panels, oxide panels have the advantage of low power consumption and narrow borders. However, oxide panels are relatively more cost-competitive compared to LTPS panels, as the former require fewer mask layers during the manufacturing process. Hence, oxide panels currently possess the highest market share among all high-end notebook panel types. TrendForce expects oxide panels to reach a 12.8% penetration rate in the notebook panel market this year. With regards to suppliers, IVO and HKC are expanding the production capacities at the Kunshan-based Gen 5 fab and Mianyang-based Gen 8.6 fab, respectively, for oxide panels this year, while CSOT is also planning the same for its new Gen 8.6 fab in Guangzhou. Once these three suppliers finalize their expansion activities, their oxide panel capacities are expected to exceed 70K sheet/m, and these capacities will be gradually available for mass production across 2022-2024.
As various TV manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, and TCL announced their new models equipped with Mini LED backlights at CES 2021, TrendForce’s 2021 Mini LED New Backlight Display Trend Analysis report shows that total Mini LED chip revenue from Mini LED backlight TVs to potentially reach US$270 million in 2021, as manufacturers gradually overcome technological bottlenecks and lower their overall manufacturing costs, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations.
Mini LED backlight TVs possess a highly cost-effective competitive advantage, as Mini LED backlight costs for the entry-level segment are only 50% higher than traditional LCD equivalents
TrendForce further indicates that, with regards to TV backlight technologies, the cost of Mini LED solutions is about two to three times lower than that of white OLED and entry-level, direct-lit LCD solutions. This cost difference therefore serves as Mini LED technology’s competitive advantage over its competitors in display backlight adoption. At the moment, high-end TVs contain about 16,000 Mini LED chips per TV, divided into 2,000 local dimming zones.
In this market segment, PM (passive matrix) Mini LED TV panels with BLU (backlight unit) still cost about 15% less than OLED TV panels and therefore hold a cost advantage. On the other hand, in the mid-range TV segment, each TV contains about 10,000-12,000 Mini LED chips and 500 local dimming zones, meaning the cost of Mini LED backlight integration in this market segment is about a mere 50% more than entry-level, direct-lit LCD backlight units, making Mini LED a viable alternative to traditional LCD solutions in this segment too. Given the high cost-effectiveness of Mini LED backlight units, TV manufacturers are therefore likely to adopt them as a viable technology and initiate an industry-wide competition over Mini LED TV specs this year.
HDR and 8K resolution will be the two mainstream features of high-end TVs this year. With regards to Korean brands, Samsung’s Neo QLED Mini LED TV and LG’s QNED Mini LED TV, both unveiled at CES this year, are equipped with Mini LED backlights as a performance-enhancing technical feature. These TVs feature not only 8K resolution, but also Mini LED backlight units, which require more than 20,000 Mini LED chips (divided across more than 1,000 local dimming zones, with more than 1,000 nits in peak brightness), in addition to passive matrix FALD technology, which allows for contrast ratios of 1,000,000:1, a significant improvement that puts these TVs on almost equal footing with OLED TVs in terms of image quality. At the same time, China-based TCL is also set to release its OD Zero Mini LED TV, which has comparable specs with Korean offerings and is also equipped with Mini LED backlight units. Going forward, more and more TV manufacturers, such as Hisense and Xiaomi, are expected to participate in the burgeoning Mini LED backlight TV market.
The pace of optimizing Mini LED chips, backplanes, and driver ICs will be key to the Mini LED industry’s rapid expansion
As various manufacturers successively release their Mini LED backlight TVs this year, related companies in the supply chain are expected to benefit as a result. Currently, there are multiple major suppliers of Mini LED components on the market: Chip suppliers include Taiwanese (Epistar and Lextar), Chinese (San’an and HC SemiTek), and Korean (Seoul Semiconductor) companies. Testing and sorting companies include FitTech, Saultech, and YTEC. SMT companies include Taiwan-based Lextar and China-based Hongli Zhihui. Driver IC suppliers include Taiwanese (Macroblock, Elan, Parade, Himax, and Novatek) and Chinese (Chipone) companies. Backplane suppliers include Tawanese (Apex and Zhen Ding Tech) and Korean (Young Poong Group) companies. Panel suppliers include SDC, LGD, AUO, Innolux, BOE, and CSOT.
TrendForce believes that Mini LED backlight displays currently possess a competitive advantage over OLED displays due to the former’s 15% comparatively lower cost. Ultimately, the future development and profitability of the Mini LED backlight market in the long run will depend on the continued optimization of components that account for a relatively higher allocation of backlight costs, including Mini LED chips, Mini LED backplanes, and driver ICs.
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The stay-at-home economy generated by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in persistent demand for IT products such as monitors, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. However, the shortage of monitor panels has been increasingly severe since non-IT panels have been occupying most of manufacturers’ production capacities, while foundries’ wafer capacities dedicated to IC products have also become increasingly strained.
Furthermore, Samsung Display (SDC) is set to shutter its panel manufacturing operations within 2021, during which its monitor panel market share is expected to drop to 1% from last year’s 12%, and as the ownership of CEC Panda’s Gen 8.5 production line transfers to BOE, other panel suppliers are likely to benefit from these events.
Looking ahead to the activities of various panel suppliers throughout 2021, TrendForce analyst Anita Wang indicates that CSOT will be the main beneficiary of SDC’s exodus from the panel manufacturing business. By acquiring SDC’s Suzhou-based Gen 8.5 production line, maintaining its capacity expansion efforts, and taking additional orders for curved VA panels this year, CSOT is likely to double its monitor panel shipment in 2021 compared to the previous year.
HKC, on the other hand, is currently preparing to enter the monitor panel market. Not only does HKC have sufficient production capacity for VA, IPS, and TN products, but the company is also primarily focused on offering open cell panels, meaning HKC’s business model coincidentally complements both monitor ODMs and Korean monitor brands, which primarily manufacture their products in-house. Should HKC’s mass production schedule proceed as planned, its monitor panel shipment for 2021 may exceed 10 million units. Nonetheless, in spite of the massive planned increase in panel production by both CSOT and HKC, the shortage of IC components remains a major bottleneck constraining the two companies’ shipment this year.
Thanks to the acquisition of CEC Panda’s Gen 8.5 production line, as well as BOE’s existing panel capacity, BOE, the largest monitor panel supplier in the world by shipment, is expected to raise its market share from 26% in 2020 to 31% in 2021, thereby widening its lead over second-ranked LGD. Going forward, BOE will attempt to maximize its competitive advantage in the industry by fully integrating and optimizing the Gen 8.5 production line it acquired from CEC Panda.
Apart from efforts by CSOT and HKC to increase their respective panel supplies, SDC is also planning to extend its panel manufacturing operations. In 2021, SDC is expected to produce about 1.1 million units of panels, all of which will be supplied to the other Samsung subsidiaries. Similarly, LGD will increase its production capacity for monitor panels in response to increased profits from these panels, along with the fact that its clients have been redirecting their orders for IPS panels from SDC to LGD. LGD is expected to revise up its targeted shipment of monitor panels for 2021 to 38 million units, although the power outage at NEG’s glass fab at the end of 2020 may cause LGD to defer its scheduled capacity expansion plans in 1Q21.
AUO is currently focused on increasing its production capacity for curved panels owing to high demand from monitor brands. AUO’s market share in this product category is expected to close in on 50% this year. Likewise, the company is expected to raise the market share of its monitor panels to 18% because demand for gaming monitors and curved monitors has been strong, and because AUO is expected to invest more resources in monitor production. Finally, Innolux (INX) will focus on improving the product structure of its monitor panel offerings this year, while increasing the per-area price of its panels. Hence, Innolux has been making an aggressive push to raise the allocation of large-sized, IPS, and gaming products within its overall product shipment.
For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Display Research, please click here, or email Ms. Vivie Liu from the Sales Department at email@example.com