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.
As the Russian-Ukrainian war directly affects Eastern Europe and, indeed, the entire European market, the supply of raw materials has destabilized and prices continued to soar, exacerbating inflation and pummeling the global economy. In addition, lockdowns and work suspensions caused by the recent pandemic outbreak in China and the government’s insistence on a dynamic zero-COVID policy may lead to complex problems such as reductions in factory production efficiency and logistical delays.TrendForce indicates, the uncertainty of current global political and economic circumstances have upset demand for three major display applications including TVs, LCD monitors, and notebooks, overshadowing 1H22 with pressure to correct expectations.
TV panel prices nearly bottomed out, driving demand in TV market remains challenging
In terms of the TV market, due to the deleterious effect of the Russian-Ukrainian war on inflation and assuming consumer budgets remain unchanged, expenditures on non-essential items will fall, deferred demand for TV products. In addition, due to issues in 2021 such as the shortage of cargo containers and port congestion, shipping costs spiked, indirectly inflating the production cost of TV sets. Before the pandemic, shipping costs on a 65-inch TV was US$9. Last year, this jumped to US$50-US$100, scaling with TV size. Even though current TV panel pricing has plunged by 30% to 40% compared to last year’s peak, the fact that freight costs are not expected to improve in 2022 will inevitably affect TV brand promotions and scale of stocking during the peak season of overseas markets in 2H22. Therefore, TrendForce revises downward its TV shipment forecast for 2022, from the original 217 million units to 215 million units, reducing annual growth rate to 2.4%.
Stay-at-home economy effect vanishes, war worries dampen demand, dragging on demand for LCD monitors
In terms of the LCD monitor market, the scale of the 2022 market will be smaller than that in 2021 as the overall market is no longer supported by strong demand from last year’s stay-at-home economy. In addition, relatively stable past demand originating from the European market ran headlong into the Russian-Ukrainian war at the end of February. This, coupled with a subsequent butterfly effect that may lead to a downward revision in demand, as well as problems such as inflation and sustained high freight rates, make it difficult for brands to realize aggressive shipping goals. Therefore, TrendForce preliminarily revises downward its LCD monitor shipment forecast for this year, from 144 million units to 142 million units, expanding annual negative growth rate to 2.3%, without ruling out a possibility of further downward revision.
Notebook demand under downward pressure from inflation and soaring component inventories
In terms of the notebook computer market, TrendForce revises downward its original 238 million unit shipment forecast to 225 million units, a decrease of 8.5% YoY. There are three primary factors to this downgrade. First, Chromebooks benefited from the pandemic driving demand for distance education in 2021, accounting for 15% of total notebook shipments. Chromebook shipments are forecast to decline by more than 50% in 2022 as a whole, disrupting total notebook shipments by approximately 7~10%. Second, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has caused most notebook brands to suspend shipments to Russia. Russia accounted for approximately 2% of global notebook shipments in 2021 and a suspension will also curb the demand for notebook shipments. Third, every notebook brand has revised 2022 shipment forecasts downward by approximately 10-15% on average compared to the beginning of the year, indicating that inflation has clouded these brand’s future demand outlook. The inventory of the entire supply chain including certain in-transit ODM/OEM components, continues to climb while the prices of some components continue to face downward pressure, resulting in intertwined problems and forcing notebook brands to prudently control purchasing momentum, which may further impact the upstream supply chain.
According to the latest TrendForce research, although factors such as panel and component mismatch and supply issues and the fading effects of the stay-at-home economy influenced shipments of e-sports LCD monitors (defined as refresh rates above 100Hz) in 2021, many brands targeted e-sports LCD monitors in 4Q21 with a strategy of aggressively reducing e-sports product pricing to prompt a volume surge and successfully boosted shipments of e-sports LCD monitors to 22.8 million units in 2021, with an annual growth rate of 24%. However, growth momentum will slow in 2022. In addition to long lead times, the most significant variable remains the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war. If the war continues, it will impair European market demand and affect the shipment performance of e-sports-related products. In addition, the Russian-Ukrainian war has triggered a surge in the prices of crude oil, metal, and agricultural commodities, spiking previously growing inflationary pressure. Thus, TrendForce conservatively estimates shipments of e-sports LCD monitors at 26.1 million units in 2022, with an annual growth rate of 14%.
In terms of product types, the market share of flat-screen e-sport LCD monitors reached 59% in 2021, officially surpassing the 41% of curved monitors. Last year, when Samsung Display (SDC) faded out of the supply chain, it caused a shortage in the supply of curved panels, increasing the magnitude of price hikes. In addition, the supply of flat IPS e-sports products continued to increase, resulting in a decline in the competitiveness of the curved panel market. In 2022, the market share of flat and curved panels will remain unchanged but the supply of curved gaming panels from the two major suppliers, AUO and CSOT, will continue to grow with curved e-sports panel pricing the first to fall. The cost-effective advantage of whole curved e-sports devices has reemerged, which will bump the market share of curved e-sports LCD monitors to 43%.
In terms of e-sports product resolution, FHD (1920×1080), QHD (2560×1440), UHD (3840×2160), and Ultra-wide (2560×1080/3440×1440/5120×1440, etc.), in 2021, FHD captured the highest market share at 62.9% followed by QHD, Ultra-wide, and UHD. TrendForce believes, in addition to continuously improving e-sports product specifications, the simultaneous improvement of resolution will assist monitor brands in maintaining or improving profitability. Especially since, starting from 4Q21, the supply of 34-inch (21:9) wide-screen VA products increased significantly. This coupled with noticeable panel price reductions, expands profit margin and allows monitor brands more room to operate and is expected to drive wide-screen monitors to compete for a 13.4% market share in 2022.
The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce recently issued the latest Unverified List (UVL) which includes ChuZhou HKC Optoelectronics Technology Co., Ltd., according to TrendForce’s investigations. The announcement states that if U.S. suppliers wish to ship products to companies on the UVL, they can still submit documentation to obtain a shipping license. According to TrendForce’s understanding, the primary reason ChuZhou HKC is included on the UVL is that it plans to import panel-related analytical instruments from the United States in the near future, and actions taken by BIS are not indicative of the Chinese panel industry as a whole. Currently, ChuZhou HKC is in the process submitting proposals and negotiating with its U.S. material suppliers, thus TrendForce’s assessment is that there is no impact on the supply and shipment of ChuZhou HKC products for the time being.
It should be noted that according to TrendForce statistics, HKC’s Chuzhou plant will account for only 3.8% of global LCD panel capacity in 2022, which is a fairly insignificant share. However, this plant accounts for 30% of HKC’s own capacity, thereby playing a pivotal role in company production. The Chuzhou factory primarily produces TV panels and monitor panels, among which TV panels account for nearly 80% of the factory’s production. If the current ban cannot be resolved smoothly, it will impact shipments of HKC TV panels.
In addition, the glass substrates used in HKC’s Chuzhou factory are sourced from multiple glass substrate suppliers, with approximately 40% coming from Corning, a U.S. supplier. Since Corning localized it production according to the location of panel makers, it is not expected to be limited by the restrictions on the export of U.S. production to China enumerated on the UVL, but detailed regulations are still awaiting clarification. At present, the supply of materials has not been affected, HKC’s Chuzhou plant maintains normal operation, and its clients have yet to move panel procurement away from the Chuzhou production line.
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The market in general had high hopes for Mini LED notebook computers in 2021. Although most brands were relatively unenthusiastic towards the adoption of Mini LED displays, the release of Mini LED products by Apple will likely generate a copycat effect and inject fresh momentum into both demand and shipment for the Mini LED notebook market. Apple did, in fact, release two brand new MacBook Pros with 14.2-inch and 16.2-inch displays, both of which are equipped with Mini LED backlights as expected. However, these Mini LED notebook displays did not receive as much marketing and publicity as the Mini LED displays used for the iPad Pro models, which had been released about six months prior.
During the unveiling of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in 2Q21, Apple made special mention of improvements brought about by the Liquid Retina XDR display technology thanks to the company’s adoption of Mini LED backlights. Conversely, perhaps because the new physical dimensions and processors took most of the spotlight, Apple was surprisingly quiet on its new MacBook Pro models’ Mini LED displays as it announced the release of these new computers during its October event. Not only did the Mini LED iPad Pros completely replace the previous edge-lit models, but these new tablets also featured a mere US$100 retail price hike, which basically entirely accounts for the cost of the new displays. Subsequently, the market began eagerly anticipating the release of the new Mini LED iPad Pro models. In contrast, whereas the 14.2-inch and 16.2-inch models of the new MacBook Pros also feature Mini LED displays exclusively, their retail prices saw significant jumps owing to the integration of multiple updated components and designs, in turn refreshing the enthusiasm of the market for Mini LED displays.
Thanks to the release of the two new MacBook models, annual Mini LED notebook shipment for 2021 reached 2.2 million units, representing a 1% penetration rate in the total notebook market. Regrettably, apart from MacBooks, the shipment volume of Mini LED notebooks released by non-Apple brands was rather insignificant. Looking ahead to 2022, given the all-out effort by Apple to ramp up MacBook shipment throughout the whole year, annual Mini LED notebook shipment for 2022 will likely undergo a staggering 360% YoY increase to eight million units for a 3.4% penetration rate. However, judging by notebook brands’ adoption of display solutions at the moment, most non-Apple brands will still gravitate towards OLED panels in 2022, with minimal adoption of Mini LED displays.
If Gen 8.5 OLED panel production lines are able to kick off mass production from 2024 onwards, will Apple transition its MacBook displays to a different solution much like it did for iPad? TrendForce believes that Apple has historically held a receptive attitude towards OLED solutions. Furthermore, from a technology assessment perspective, notebook computers and tablets are relatively similar in their display technologies and, to a lesser extent, use cases. If Apple does decide to transition iPad displays from Mini LED to OLED, then the company will likely do the same for MacBook display as well, in principle. On the other hand, LCD panels are still expected to remain the mainstream display technology for notebook computers in 2025. It, therefore, makes competitive sense for notebook brands to differentiate their products with OLED panels in the high-end segment and with LCD panels and Mini LED backlights in the premium mid-range segment or even mid-range segment. At any rate, given the shrinking gap between the cost structures of Mini LED solutions and OLED solutions, only by continually optimizing the manufacturing costs of Mini LED backlights can suppliers convince Apple to continue adopting Mini LED displays.