LCD Equipment Makers Eyeing OLED, Mini/Micro LED Markets

Taiwan-based LCD equipment makers could return to a growth track in 2020 by shipping more of their equipment for the manufacture of OLED and mini LED-backlit panels after ending 2019 with decreased revenues, according to industry sources.

Many LCD equipment suppliers got off to a good start in the beginning of 2019 when China-based panel makers were still humming on some expansion projects, and SIO International Guangzhou, a subsidiary of Sakai Display Products (SDP), was to kick off equipment move-in for its 10.5G line in Guangzhou in the first quarter of 2019.

However, capacity expansion projects in China came to a halt in second half of 2019 due to oversupply of LCD TV panels, and SIO International even announced a delay to the equipment move-in process and postpone its planned volume production six months to April 2020.

Most Taiwanese LCD equipment suppliers, including Utechzone, Favite, Contrel Technology, Mirle and Easy Field, suffered double-digit revenue declines in the second half of 2019 due to the abrupt changes in market conditions.

For all of 2019, Mirle saw its revenues dip 13.18% to NT$12.507 billion (US$417.91 million); Utechzone suffered a 22.45% decline to NT$2.416 billion; Gallant Precision Machining (GPM) sank 13.07% to NT$4.236 billion; Contrel dropped 16.36% to NT$5.781 billion; and Csun tumbled 22.02% to NT$4.444 billion.

Some LCD equipment suppliers may see revenues rebound in the first half of 2020 as TV panel prices have begun rising recently, and SIO International has resumed its equipment move-in. But the long-term prospects of these makers may not be promising as panel makers in Korea and China have shifted their focus to developing OLED or mini/micro LED-backlit panels.

Industry sources noted that global investments for ramping OLED production capacity are likely to reach US$8 billion in the next five years, becoming an increasingly lucrative market for Taiwanese equipment suppliers.

For example, FitTech, a Taiwan-based LED probing, testing and sorting equipment maker, has launched an expansion project to build a new plant slated for completion in three years, the sources indicated.

Equipment demand from the LED sector is set to increase substantially in the near future as the penetration rates of mini LED-backlit end-market devices such as automotive displays and tablets are expected to grow significantly in 2021-2025, the sources revealed.―Digitimes

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