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LCD shipments expected to pick up

Shipments of liquid-crystal displays will increase sooner than expected, a research firm says. Lower prices may be coming, too.

Shipments of liquid-crystal displays will increase sooner than expected, a research firm said--good news for a market struggling to meet demand, but a development that could lead to the types of price drops that have hurt the industry in the past.

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Austin, Texas-based DisplaySearch updated on Wednesday its projections from March on shipments and revenue for large LCDs--those 10 inches and up. LCDs are commonly used in flat-panel monitors and notebook computers.

"Several major manufacturers are bringing their fifth-generation (factories) online (this year), and that will significantly increase supply," said Ross Young, DisplaySearch's president. The firm expects shipments to rise by 55 percent in 2002, up 7 percent from the March forecast.

The new factories are capable of handling larger glass sheets than in the past, allowing companies to produce more monitor panels per sheet.

LG Philips, Samsung, Quanta and AU Optronics are expected to begin shipping LCD panels in volume near year's end.

The upcoming supply will help quench the demand for LCD panels. Demand currently exceeds the supply. Prices, however, will continue to increase through the rest of the year, DisplaySearch said. Revenue will rise to $20.3 billion in 2002, a 79 percent increase from last year, the company said.

Young added that LCD makers are expected to invest $9 billion in capital spending for 2003, which is up 94 percent from last year and is more than what they invested in 2001 and so far in 2002 combined.

DisplaySearch also expects shipments of LCD monitors to exceed shipments of CRT monitors by the second half of 2004 instead of the middle of 2005 as earlier predicted.

LCD prices were down significantly in late 2000 and 2001 because of a glutted market, prompting manufacturers to cut back on production. But as they pulled back, flat panels and notebooks increased in popularity, with companies like Gateway and Apple Computer--with its flat-panel iMac--pushing such products.

Hence the glut, and what looks to be the start of a new cycle: New factories start churning out panels, and prices likely begin falling again.