TFT market boom despite glass shortage

The flat panel monitor market is set to boom sooner than expected according to Samsung sales and marketing director Ali Demin, despite the fact that TFT prices across the market are expected to rise by 20 per cent over the next few weeks.

A worldwide TFT glass shortage will force prices up but Demin reckoned this won't be enough to dampen interest in flat panel products. "We have moved our business up market and we are getting a lot of interest for flat panels outside of the traditional City market," said Demin.

Samsung Electronics UK (SEUK), which launched a range of flat screens last week including a flat CRT, has just received an initial order of 100,000 flat panel displays from British Airways, according to SEUK corporate sales manager Piers Morgan. "The figure is more likely to be nearer one million units by the end of the year," he said.

Morgan added that Samsung has seen a shift in the corporate flat panel business over the past couple of months. The traditional buyers of flat panel screens are City firms but now Samsung has seen a lot of interest in other sectors.

As well as BA, the company has set-up deals with EasyJet, McLaren International, Racal Electronics, the Ministry of Defence and Abbey National.

Demin is hoping that this will help push volumes of large margin product and put the company back on the profit trail. In 1997 SEUK lost £6 million. Last year the company turned that around to a £0.5m profit and Demin is looking for 35 per cent growth this year.

"The TFT market is starting to be a real market now," said Bob Raikes, consultant at monitor specialist Meko and editor of Display Monitor. "There is a shortage and prices are starting to climb. Samsung will up its production in Q2 to 60,000 units a month due to a new factory in Korea, while a number of Taiwanese vendors will enter the market later this year."

Raikes gives credit for the widespread interest in TFT monitors to Philips. "We started seeing volumes late last year after Philips thrashed prices but it ran out of supply. However, it did create an expectation in the market for lower cost TFTs, the consumers have started to show interest and now the other manufacturers are reaping the benefits."


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