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Samsung considering options for LCD business; spinoff possible

The company has acknowledged that it will be considering all options, but has so far said that it wouldn't comment on a possible spinoff.

A 70-inch Samsung LCD that debuted back in 2007.
A 70-inch Samsung LCD that debuted back in 2007. Samsung

Samsung might be a leading TV maker, but its LCD business is quickly becoming a thorn in its side.

Speaking to Reuters today, Samsung said that it's considering all options with its LCD flat-panel business, but declined to confirm that it has made any decisions. One rumor suggests Samsung is thinking about spinning off its LCD business, but the company would not comment on that.

"Samsung is looking into various options to improve the competitiveness of LCD business, but no decision has been made yet," a Samsung spokeswoman told CNET in an e-mailed statement.

Samsung's LCD business has taken a hit over the last couple of years, as the costs of producing panels failed to at least match the market upside. In 2011, the operating loss for the company's LCD business hit nearly $900 million. Those losses came despite Samsung's strong performance globally in the HDTV market. In the U.S., for example, both Samsung and Vizio are vying for the top spot in LCDs, and hold sizable market shares.

It's not immediately clear what Samsung would do about its S-LCD business. Late last year, Samsung announced plans to acquire Sony's share of the joint venture for $940 million. The deal was completed last month, leaving the organization, which produces LCD panels for televisions, mobile phones, and other consumer electronics, firmly in Samsung's control.

In retrospect, the deal might have been more about helping Sony than Samsung. Sony's television business has been losing money for nearly a decade. Getting out of its S-LCD partnership with Samsung might have been Sony's first step in addressing its TV division's many troubles. Investors say the ultimate solution would be to spinoff or sell the TV business, but so far, Sony has been loath to do so. Its incoming CEO, Kazuo Hirai, says he has a plan that might be able to salvage the division.

Even if Samsung ditches its LCD business, it won't mean that the company will be leaving the HDTV market. Samsung could still source the panels from the company it spins off and focus more of its efforts on future TV technologies, like OLED. What's clear, though, is that LCDs are quickly becoming a liability for many companies and Sony and Samsung appear to be chief among them.

Update 9:57 a.m. PT to include Samsung's statement.