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LCD glass maker pumps in $600 million to expand

Corning hopes the expansion will help it keep pace with demand from LCD makers for bigger glass substrates, as the market for LCD desktop and notebook monitors grows.

    Corning, a maker of glass substrates for liquid crystal display panels, plans to spend $600 million to expand its manufacturing capacity in Taiwan and Japan over the next two years.

    The company on Wednesday said the expansion will help it keep pace with demand from LCD makers for bigger glass substrates, as the market for LCD desktop and notebook monitors grows. Already there is a strong market for larger LCD TV units, which in turn is driving demand for so-called Gen 6-size substrates. The new investment will help Corning double its capacity to make these substrates.

    Worldwide revenue for LCD panels is expected to reach $47 billion in 2004, up 32 percent from last year, according to research firm iSuppli. The market for the displays is expected to be fueled by strong growth in the use of LCD panels in desktop monitors, notebook computers and televisions, which will likely spark demand for large thin-film transistor LCD panels.

    The flat-screen TV market also is seeing a lot of action, with computer makers Gateway and Dell launching LCD televisions. Last month, Intel announced a complex semiconductor designed to produce images for projection televisions and large displays. Corning expects this segment to grow from 3 percent of the global TV market in 2003 to 16 percent market in 2006. However, factors such as consumer acceptance of the LCD format and price declines will determine the outcome.

    "The LCD industry is in a growth stage, and Corning is stepping up to meet anticipated customer demand around the world," said a statement from Donald B. McNaughton, senior vice president of Corning Display. "Flat-panel monitors and notebook PCs are quickly becoming the norm in homes and offices, while high-definition LCD TV may soon emerge as an additional driver of glass usage."