After a strong December, LCD panel moderates in Q1

The market for large-sized liquid-crystal display (LCD) panels is set for a moderate seasonal decline in the first quarter after a busy end-of-year in 2013 that saw record shipments for TV and tablet panels, according to a new report from IHS Technology.

Global LCD panel shipments for the first quarter of 2014 will reach an estimated 222.0 million units, down 9 percent from 244.4 million at the end of the fourth quarter last year. Despite the drop, considered normal at this time of the year, the latest shipment projections for the first three months point to a robust market, with forecast volume larger than those of either the first or second quarter of 2013 and nearly equaling the third’s.

“After completion of the pre-stocking and rush orders in the fourth quarter, market demand for LCD panels will not be as strong in January, which will affect overall volume for the first quarter,” said Ricky Park, senior manager for large-area displays at IHS. The findings are contained in the report, “Tablet Shipments Again Set Record High,” from the Display Materials & Systems service of IHS.

There will also be fewer working days for panel manufacturers in China at the end of January during the Lunar New Year, when it is customary to take a break from work for a week or longer. As a result, panel shipments will be impacted until February for large-sized LCD panels, which pertains to the display market for TVs, monitors, notebooks and tablets.

A mighty December overall

December proved an exceptional month for the TV as well as tablet panel segments, and sufficiently strong for the notebook panel market. Only the monitor panel sector, which continues to lose ground, did not show growth for the month.

For TV panels, shipments in December reached 20.2 million units, the first time since May that volume exceeded the 20.0 million mark, thanks to solid year-end promotions by TV brands. The 50-inch-and-above size grew its share of the TV panel market in the fourth quarter to 14 percent, up from 10 percent in the third quarter—more evidence of demand for larger-sized panels among consumers.

Panel makers also created a volley of new sizes to pitch to the market. Using economical glass-cutting processes and efficient utilization, panel makers like Innolux from Taiwan introduced the 39.5-inch TV panel, while Chinese makers BOE and CSOT each supplied a new 48-inch panel. South Korea’s LG Display also joined in the fray, launching the 49-inch, prompting a similar response from CSOT.

The tablet panel market was likewise a big performer in December as shipments surged to 31.1 million panels for the month, up 43 percent from the same time a year ago. Japan’s Sharp enjoyed the largest growth after shipments grew a phenomenal thirteenfold from November, thanks to orders from Apple for its 7.9-inch iPad mini tablet.

The unbranded white-box tablet market in China also proved sturdy during the period, propelling large increases in tablet panel shipments for Taiwanese panel makers CPT, HannStar Display and Innolux.

In the notebook panel market, Hewlett-Packard was a big customer. Because of HP, notebook panel orders climbed for the market’s four main notebook panel suppliers: Innolux, AUO from Taiwan, LG Display and fellow South Korean maker Samsung Display. Total notebook panel shipments in December reached 16.7 million units, up 4 percent for the month.

Among the four major panel markets, only the monitor segment continued to underperform in December. LCD panel shipments for monitors amounted to 13.7 million units, down nearly 2 percent from the month before—and off by an even larger 8 percent from a year ago in December 2012.

The weak shipments from monitors notwithstanding, overall December shipments for large-sized LCD panels rose to 82.4 million units, up slightly from 81.6 million in November, but growing by a heady 7 percent from year-ago levels.

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