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LG bets big on OLEDs

From very small beginnings, it seems that South Korea’s electronics giant LG is placing plenty of R&D cash into OLED technology, for watches, for computer screens and now for large-screen TVs.

According to DisplaySearch data, the company is already enjoying a 90 per cent market share of the 400,000 large-screen units expected to be sold this year. DisplaySearch says the OLED TV market grew to 35,200 units in Q1, more than seven times greater than the 4,600 units sold in the same period last year, showing rapid growth in the premium TV market. DisplaySearch says this will grow to a staggering seven million units globally by 2019.

And currently LG has this market – more or less – to itself. Neither Samsung nor Sony has yet joined the OLED market. Samsung is said to be much more cautious over large-screen OLEDs, while Panasonic abandoned a j-v with Sony for producing OLEDs.

LG said last year that it had cured the very high wastage level on larger screen production (said by informed sources to be worse than 60 per cent) and was now generating positive yields of 80 per cent, and better. With these higher yields has come tumbling prices. A 55” curved screen was once strictly in football player and Russian oligarch territory as far as pricing was concerned, at some $15,000.

The same unit today costs about $2,500, and the price continues to fall. LG is currently marketing what it claims is the first ‘true black’ OLED display. An LG executive, speaking in Australia on July 7th, said that the company expects to take around 30 per cent of the overall 4K/UHD market by 2020.

LG reportedly is to open a second OLED factory later this year at a cost of some $750 million for wearables and smart phones, and is also considering a third facility.

Nevertheless, not all in LG’s garden is rosy. To date, according to The Economist magazine, LG has invested some $3 billion on OLED production – and has yet to see a profit.

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