Flat panel shipments see record high

Although large area TFT LCD shipments felt a slight downturn in April, by two percent, they swiftly increased in May by seven percent month on month.

Revenues increased three percent month on month, while total shipments managed 62.9 million – or a seven percent yearly increase. It’s significant because the previous record was set back in November 2010 where 61.4 million panels shipped.

Large area revenues hit 6.6 billion but that was a decrease of 13 percent from the same time last year. All of 2011 has seen large area revenues drop each month, from between nine to 15 percent.

However, mobile computing is still driving demand, particularly from the tablet PC segment. Mobile PC panels swelled 13 percent from April to May, reflecting a panel price rebound, according to analysts at DisplaySearch. Altogether, tablet panel shipments grew from 10.2 million units in April to 11.1 million in May.

The 9.7 ” panel – iPad sized – is strong, growing a million units from April’s 4.3 million to May’s 5.3 million. Displaysearch points out that, although the size is a strong driver for the industry, there is a price gap between iPads sold and panels shipped. 

Apple has reported selling 5 million iPads in the first quarter, and is aiming for 8 million in the second – but the set shipments for 9.7″ panels are 3.9 milion. The gap is either down to overshipped iPad panels or struggling assembly lines for other iPad components, DisplaySearch thinks. Other size shipments, like the 7″, 8.9″ and 10.1″, are all increasing.

LCD monitor panels shipments are still struggling. There was a five percent monthly growth but supply is short, as manufacturers are still cautious about boosting production. Panel prices for 18.5″W increased which made 19″W demand tighter, though 20″W reached a monthly high with 2.1 million shipped.

LCD TV panels increased by just one percent both monthly and year-on-year to reach 17.7 million units in May. Samsung TV felt a sting in demand for 40″W sizes, causing a slight domino effect – with overall shipments dropping from 2.4 million in April to 2 million in May. 

The problem is still in the North American and European markets. Panel makers operating at a loss for the last few quarters are worried about the sell-through in the regions, and are holding back on production in an effort to stabilise prices.