Tag: auo

AUO to debut 5-inch FHD OLED

Taiwanese display company AU Optronics will debut its 5-inch FHD OLED panel at China Optoelectronics Display Expo 2013 (CODE 2013) in Shenzhen, which it claims is the world’s highest resolution FHD OLED.

AUO will show off the panel integrated into a smartphone, managing a resolution of 443 ppi and including what the company says is a fine shadow mask process. The company boasts its panel doesn’t need much power while displaying a high picture quality, a free viewing angle, high contrast, high brightness and a fast response time.

It will also show off LCD panels from 5 to 5.7 inches utilising AHVA technology with the LTPS production process and Hyper LCD technology, all with full HD 720 and wide viewing angle.

AUO’s 5-inch Full HD AHVA display has full HD resolution of 443ppi, or 1080×1920, sporting a narrow bezel of 1mm width from the display area to the touch panel border.

The company plans to demonstrate its 4K display technologies, too, including 65 inch and 55 inch panels to show off an HD resolution of 3840×2160, with the 65 inch panel boasting higher quality 3D images, the company says.

World's smallest 4k screen unveiled

While Sony and LG have recently announced gigantic 84 inch 4k TVs, one manufacturer has revealed its plans for releasing a 9.6 inch 4k screen.

4k, also beginning to be known as UltraHD, is so named after its enormous resolution 3840×2160 resolution. So far, manufacturers have strongly veered towards the larger end of the spectrum, and manufactures are charging equally large prices for the nascent technology.  

Both Sony and LG Display have announced 84 inch TVs using the technology, and both come with price tags that break right through the $20,000 mark. Panel manufacturer AUO has also announced it will be bringing out 65 inch and 55 inch panels. 

But Japanese manufacturer Ortus Technology  has taken a different approach, producing a 9.6 inch screen, though they will not be made for consumer electronics.

At 458 pixels per inch (ppi) it is way ahead of the likes of Apple’s Retina Display, with the iPhone 5 reaching 326 ppi, though the manufacturers note that such resolutions “exceed [the] discrimination limit of human eyes”.  However, the viewing angle is lower than an iPad, with the 4k TV device managing 160 degrees compared to Apple’s 178.

The screens, which are ready to ship in November, are not targeted at mainstream use.

According to the manufacturers, the screens are more likely to be used in applications such as professional video equipment or medical equipment, where such resolutions are either a strict requirement or highly beneficial. This could mean, for example, use as a 4k TV camera monitor screen.

iPad Mini in supply chain gamble

Apple may have announced its latest product to its adoring followers, but analysts are wary that consumers may be waiting longer than usual to get hold of the iPad Mini due to supply concerns.

As was widely predicted, Apple announced a smaller iPad device, costing £269 in the UK, as well as a new iPad 4 and refreshes in its notebook and PC ranges.

However, with demand likely to be high for the new devices, particularly the cheaper Mini tablets, panel supplies are expected to be even more constrained than usual.

According to DisplaySearch, Apple has changed up its supply chain for the Mini, continuing to work with LG Display, which will supply to Apple’s Taiwanese manufacturing partner Foxconn, and adding a new supplier to its chain, AUO, which provides panels to Pegatron.

According to reports in the run up to the Mini, manufacturing will be split roughly equally between the two manufacturers, with AUO likely to take up to 60 percent of the production as it effectively takes the place of Samsung.

With the ongoing fight with Samsung over intellectual property, Apple started dissolving its relationship with the former ally, leaving the firm with limited options.  Samsung had previously been a reliable partner and Apple is now having to deal with an altered supply chain.

Analysts point out AUO has had yield problems with its 7.9 inch panels. These production problems are resulting in tightened supply to Pegatron which is tasked with putting the final touches to the devices. 

This means that in September, AUO shipped just over 100,000 units, a third of what Apple’s other supplier for the Mini, LG Display, managed in the same month.  

Tightened supply could continue for some time.  AUO’s production plan is to churn out 400,000 units in October, 800,000 in November, and reach the 1 million mark in December.  In contrast, LG Display will be shipping 1 million in October, 2.5 million in November, and 3 million the following month.

Apple will hope to shift a serious amount of the upcoming devices, but sales are still limited to what Apple and its supply chain can actually produce – and without Samsung this number is potentially lowered.

Reports in the Korea Times earlier this week show that the deteriorating relationship between the pair means that, in addition to not providing displays for the Mini, Samsung, already getting edged out of chip production, is likely to be given the elbow on all future display production.

Samsung had previously been the top supplier to Apple for LCDs used in its range of PC and mobile devices, shipping 15 million units in the first six months of the year.  However this figure is thought to have dropped to  3 million during the third quarter, with expectations that it will drop to 1.5 million in the fourth. 

Presumably others such as LG Display, Sharp and AUO will see increased orders to compensate, however, even Sharp has been having problems producing enough screens for the iPhone 5 in the run up to the Christmas period.

A company that intentionally puts the squeeze on supply to manufacture hype, Apple may find itself in a real quandary sooner than it would like.

LCD price fixing leads to $1 billion glass action

Consumers who bought a TV, monitor or notebook computer with an LCD flat panel screen are being advised they can claim back money from price-fixing settlements which over the years have totalled $1.1 billion.

Kinsella Media, LLC, which is dealing with a court-approved LCD flat panel litigation from seven flat panel manufacturers including AU Optronics, LG Display and Toshiba, has said that the fees the companies have been ordered to pay back compensate users who could have been forced to pay more for their products.

It follows a lawsuit which found the manufacturers guilty of conspiring to fix, raise, maintain or stabilise prices of TFT-LCD flat panels, resulting in overcharges to consumers who bought televisions, monitors and notebook computers.

The law firm said that the settlements would provide almost $1.1 billion to consumers in 24 states, as well as the District of Columbia and government entities in eight states that purchased televisions, monitors and notebook computers containing an LCD flat panel.

The settlements also provide nationwide injunctive relief to stop the defendants’ alleged behaviour.

However, there may be some time to wait, as the court is still debating whether the charges against the companies are to be upheld. It will hold a hearing on 29 November, 2012 to consider whether to approve the three new settlements from LG, AOU and Toshiba.  

Payments will be based on the number of valid claims filed as well as on the number and type of LCD flat panel products that consumers purchased. It is expected that a minimum payment of $25 will be made to all eligible consumers who submit a valid claim.

Any money remaining after claims are paid will be distributed to charities, governmental bodies or other beneficiaries approved by the court.

AUO, CMI up wages as Chinese firms poach staff

Big Taiwanese tech firms such as AUO, Chimei Innolux and Hon Hai are upping wages in order to slow the brain drain of staff being poached by Chinese companies.

Chimei Innolux, for example, has given the nod for the biggest pay hike since global economic catastrophe struck back in 2008.  The flat panel manufacturer has increased wages by up to 15 percent to stop employee’s heads being turned by bigger pay cheques in China.

Another flat panel manufacturer, AUO, is worried about its workers getting snapped up and handed out pay rises averaging between 6-7 percent back in April, according to Taiwan Economic News. Top workers are getting double digit pay hikes.

More recently others such as TV manufacturer Sampo and semiconductor packaging firm ASE Inc have been dishing out extra cash to staff, with worries increasing over China’s workforce demands.

One display manufacturer in mainland China, CSOT, is apparently actively poaching engineers from Taiwan as it looks to grow its business with additional production output. This has involved looking at the staff rosters of Chimei and AUO in fine detail, before offering up to four times annual pay to persuade talent to jump ship.

There is also pressure on panel manufacturers from within Taiwan too, with semi producer TSMC also looking to nick staff.

This is down to TSMC’s low production of 28nm chips allowing orders to head to the likes of Samsung and UMC.  TSMC will now look to expand production, with flat panel display staff likely to be roped in as manufacturing process skills are similar in both methods.

AUO to contest price-fixing guilty verdict

AU Optronics has vowed to challenge the Department of Justice’s verdict after the panel maker was found guilty of price fixing.

The Taiwanese LCD panel manufacturer had been accused of colluding with its competitors in the panel industry to fix prices.

While AUO still contests whether the content of high level meetings taking place in Taiwan should be subject to US laws, the DOJ has declared the firm to be in breach of competition rules. AUO could now be in line for substantial fines in the region of $1 billion.

Two senior employees, HB Chen and Hui Hsiung, were found guilty in the case, though two others, LJ Chen and Hubert Lee, were acquitted.

The firm declared in a response statement that it “intends to appeal the verdict and any fine” once a full decision is made by US courts over the coming months.

In the statement, AUO was keen to express its innocence, claiming that those present at meetings had little authority to actually effect pricing in real life.

A number of firms have been reprimanded over alleged price fixing between 2001 and 2006, with Samsung, LG and others in hot water with US authorities.

Authorities in the EU and Asia have also brought various industry players to task over the so called ‘crystal meetings’.

Such price fixing occurred before the panel industry saw prices dwindle to the extent that many firms are selling for little above material cost, according to analysts.  Many panel firms are currently operating at a loss.

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Panel industry top dogs Chimei, AUO move closer to merger

Chimei Innolux chairman Liao Ching-siang has stepped down from his role at the Taiwanese panel company amidst growing speculation that a merger with AUO is on the cards.

Ching-siang has stepped down, he says, because of health problems. He has also quit his role as director on the board.  But there is speculation that there may be more to the decision than Chimei is admitting.

Cash-strapped CMI has been attempting to drum up some funding. Digitimessources reckon it’s after $1.97 billion.  However, CMI also has other substantial loans, and a lack of support from Foxconn Group – which owns 11 percent of CMI – is hampering attempts to get a loan together.

CMI has, like others in the panel industry, turned in poorer than expected financial results recently.  This has led to calls for CMI to team up with domestic rival AU Optronics to survive any lurches into the red.

A similar situation has cropped up in Japan where Sony, Hitachi and Toshiba have teamed up with Japanese authorities to stay competitive.

Taiwanese authorities are angling for a collaboration between Chimei and AUO.  Both recently met with government representatives, and there seemed to be a possibility a merger is around the corner.

DisplaySearch panel analyst Paul Gray told TechEye it’s likely there is some back-room string pulling to make sure Chimei can operate in the cut-throat environment of the LCD industry.

“The Taiwanese government has always been creative and proactive in ensuring that firms do not become sub-scale,” Gray said. “There is definitely a move afoot for the firms to merge.

“As Bruce Berkoff, the chairman of the LCD TV association has said in the past, ‘science always loses to engineering, engineering always loses to economics, economics always loses to politics’.”

Gray continues: “One effect of the departure could be that business will be more driven by Hon Hai and Foxconn, with Chimei Innolux moving from panel production to being a vertically integrated TV manufacturer like Samsung.”

Gray tells us there are widespread difficulties in turning a profit, and this will push a merger.

 “Everybody is losing money, not just the Taiwanese panel makers,” Gray says. “It’s a pretty exceptional market where even the industry leader is losing money. There is a ferocious level of competition, and when companies are losing money then there is often consolidation. 

“Consolidation has probably not finished in the industry yet, we could end up with just four main players eventually.”

Just how well the two could gel is murky.

“It’s a business where you get rewards to scale,” according to Gray, “though of course you have to ensure that the companies that are merging are a correct fit. 

“It is not always an A plus B equation, with the companies a sum of their parts; the firms might not be compatible for a variety of reasons.  For example, their culture, history or even down to technical detail might fit.”

AUO hits top execs in the pocket after poor results

AU Optronics’ top staff have been told to take a pay cut in a bid to save the company cash after the company has landed in the red.

AUO hopes that it will save $265,000 a year by making the noble move of cutting executive pay rather than throwing low paid workers out onto the street. 

Of course canny chairman K.Y. Li has managed to dodge any drops to his wages as he is not a managerial staffer, says CENS, and only picks up a wage as part of the board of directors.

In the past companies have looked to send their workers off on enforced unpaid leave, but due to a strong backlash when such tactics were popularised during the recession hitting in 2008 it seems firms are wary of making such moves.

Now it seems executives have been targeted for poor performance, and are being told in no uncertain terms they too can have all the unpaid holiday they want, unless they get their act in gear sharpish.

With the panel industry suffering AUO has stated that it will lower the wages of it exec staff by 15 percent as a demonstration of their responsibility.  It is not yet clear whether such a pay cut will trickle down to medium level staff.

AUO supremos have decreed that the overall environment can only be blamed so far, but exactly how much the executives are to blame is unclear.  There has been a big downturn in panel maker’s fortunes across the board recently with various firms in precarious situations.

Domestic rival Chimei Innolux has also reported poor results, though has not yet announced any wage cuts as yet.

Meanwhile in China another panel maker HannStar has moved to dismiss rumours that it has laid off 20 percent of its staff at a module plant in, claiming that employees are merely being moved to another plant.

Like other panel makers, HannStar says that it is shifting its emphasis to small to medium panels as the large panel market suffers, and is converting its production line with this in mind.  Employees working on small to medium size panels have apparently been moved in order accomadate this shift according to DigiTimes.

Taiwan panics on S. Korea – US trade agreement

A worried Taiwanese government has declared that it will offer tax rebates to domestic firms amid fears over South Korea’s upcoming trade agreement with the US.

In a bid to give a leg up against competing foreign firms, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has announced that it will be offering tax rebates for imported industrial raw materials and components, writes CENS.

This will hopefully provide a boost to Taiwan’s flat panel display industry, meaning a sigh of relief for the likes of Chimei Innolux and AUO.

The announcement comes in response to the free trade agreement between the US and South Korea, with the news that the trade pact will come into effect by the end of the year.

Now, Taiwan casts on eye on its trade rival in South Korea, which will enjoy the ditching of tariffs on 95 percent of its products over the next five years.

Further tariffs will also be eliminated in the years to come, with Columbia and Panama also enjoying similar deals.

So we imagine Taiwan, a geopolitical ally of the US like South Korea, might be feeling a tad left out.

Not least because the US is Taiwan’s third largest export market, a multi-billion dollar industry in which much of what is produced is directly in competition with South Korean products.

According to Chuo Shi-chao, director general of the Bureau of Foreign Trade at MOEA, around “70 percent of Taiwan-made products” are forced to compete with Korean products in the US market.

Which is why it’s, perhaps, understandable that MOEA is taking steps to ensure Taiwan is not edged out as a manufacturer and exporter to countries like the US.

Indeed, South Korea has also just signed a free trade agreement with the EU, though considering the powder-keg economy it is unlikely that Taiwan is overly concerned of missing out on Irish and Greek cash.

Of course, many Taiwanese products already enjoy tariff free status under the International Technology Agreement, but not all products are listed as part of the ITA, with, for example, large flat screen panels excluded from the deal. That can be a point of contention.

So, as well offering tax rebates on materials imported for domestic manufacturers, the MOEA will seek to help differentiate products and explore new markets.

Taiwan will also reportedly step up its own efforts to sign its own FTAs with major trade players.

Panel makers impose capacity squeeze

It’s not like panel-makers have been accused of conspiring against the whole world and its dog before. Taiwan’s AU Optronics and Chimei Innolux panel powerhouses are putting the squeeze on TFT-LCDs.

It’s a rather old trick. Tighten the belt on output and you can keep prices high. AUO is leading the charge but other big business panel companies like Samsung and LG Display are also planning to cut production.

There has been a glut of inventory with shipments particularly cautious in the Europe and North America regions, which forced panel prices to sit in the lower end of the spectrum in June. Cutting supply is a counter strategy, says Taiwan Economic News.

AUO has cut glass purchase and will lower its capacity utilisation to 80 percent from 85 percent.

We’ll see that change in the third quarter. Chimei is expected to knock ten percent off its capacity, from 90 to 80 percent in the same quarter. Both Samsung and LG will follow suit.

We will be taking market conditions into account, says AUO, meaning despite the overall health of the sector it’s not quite seeing the margins it would like.