Sharp Corp, Japan's largest maker of liquid crystal displays, said its revenues from LCD televisions in the last business year exceeded targets, albeit slightly, as pricey, big-screen models proved especially popular. Sharp, the dominant player in the small but fast-growing global market for liquid-crystal TVs with about a 50-percent share, had targeted 82 billion yen ($685 million) in revenues in the business.
"The big-screen models are making a major contribution," Masatsugu Teragawa, head of Sharp's LCD digital systems division, told reporters after a news conference. Sharp has targeted a more than 50-percent increase in unit sales of liquid-crystal TVs for the business year that started on April 1, to 1.5 million units, while retaining its 50-percent share of a market. Investors have rewarded the company's focus on fast-growing markets such as LCD televisions and camera-equipped cellphones, lifting its shares 8.5 percent since the start of the year, compared with a 9.6-percent drop in the Tokyo Stock Exchange's electrical machinery index.
The Osaka-based company faces potentially stiff competition, however, from South Korea-based rivals LG Philips, a 50-50 venture between LG Electronics and Philips Electronics and Samsung Electronics Co. LG Philips and Samsung are the world's largest LCD makers, dominating the huge markets for notebook PC screens and flat PC monitors.
Sharp's Mr. Teragawa said a new plant in Japan due to begin mass production next January would bring sizable cost savings, made possible by larger "mother-glass" sheets from which displays are cut and by integrating LCD panel production and TV assembly. He declined to give any specifics on the amount of the cost reductions, although some executives have said they expected LCD production costs to fall at a rate of about 30 percent a year for several years.
Sharp's cheapest LCD television, a 13-inch model, retails for about 70,000 yen in Japan, a spokesman said, several times the price of a comparably sized picture-tube model. Mr. Teragawa was also optimistic that LCD televisions can close the performance gap with traditional picture tubes in response time, or the speed at which the screen's tiny colour elements change to match the action in the picture. Slow response is one of the most tenacious problems facing LCD televisions, resulting in images that seem to linger slightly on the screen or blur into each other. (Reuters)
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