Optimax to set up polarizer plant in Southern Taiwan Science Park

Dec 29, 2003 Ι Industry In-Focus Ι Electronics and Computers Ι By Quincy, CENS
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Taipei, Dec. 29, 2003 (CENS)--Taiwan's Optimax Technology Corp. recently decided to step up expanding production of polarizers for thin film transistor-liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels to compete with foreign rivals that have been setting up production facilities on the island.

Optimax's board recently resolved to set up a polarizer production plant in the Southern Taiwan Science Park (STSP) to meet the increasing demand for the fifth-generation panel products made by major customers Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp. (CMO) and HannStar Display Corp.

Optimax decided to first pour about NT$1 billion (US$29.33 million at US$1: NT$34.1) into mainly rear-section cutting equipment in the initial stage at the planned STSP polarizer facility and will continuously inject capitals for installing front-section production equipment. Optimax claimed that it would follow CMO and HannStar's progresses in sixth- and seventh-generation panel business deployment and install the front-section production equipment at its new plant, which is expected to have an annual polarizer capacity of about seven million square meters.

Optimax currently runs four polarizer production lines in Taiwan with total annual capacity of 20.6 million square meters.

Optimax is currently the largest TFT-LCD polarizer supplier in Taiwan, commanding a 55% share of the domestic market, compared to 40% for Nitto Denko Corp. of Japan and 5% for SC-IK Technology Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Japan's Sumitomo Chemicals.

SC-IK originally planned to start local production of polarizers at its new plant in STSP in September this year but the date will be postponed to the first quarter next year due to undisclosed reasons. SC-IK installed only one production line, with an annual capacity of about six million square meters, at the STSP facility.

Nitto Denko recently applied for a seven-hectare land to the Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP) administration bureau to set up a polarizer plant in the new science park. Nitto Denko currently runs a rear-section polarizer cutting plant in Taichung County and plans to step into front-section production works at its scheduled CTSP plant.

LG Chem Ltd., a polarizer-production affiliate of South Korea's LG Group, however, recently announced a project to tap the Taiwan polarizer market. LG Chem would set up a polarizer plant in northern Taiwan's Chungli soon with a local partner. The plant is scheduled to start mass production in April 2004 with an annual capacity of about 3.75 million square meters.

Industry sources said that it will take at least two years for LG to gain a solid foothold in Taiwan's polarizer market.

Industry sources said that Taiwan's TFT-LCD polarizer market value would reach about US$445 million, accounting for about 35% of the global market, and the local demand is expected to grow by about 60% next year due to the active production expansion by local panel makers. As more and more Japanese TFT-LCD panel makers are phasing out their business and transferring their technologies to Taiwan panel makers, the sources said, an increasing group of panel parts and material makers are actively tapping new businesses in Taiwan.

Currently, the sources said, a 15- and 17-inch polarizer is priced at about US$12 and US$18, respectively, and the prices were maintained at a stable level this year due to a supply tension. In the future, however, they added, there would be price-cutting competition in local polarizer market after foreign competitors complete their production lines on the island.

Optimax post accumulated revenue of NT$8.7 billion (US$255.13 million) in the first 11 months this year, including NT$1.12 billion (US$32.93 million) last month, and the company is very confident that its revenue for this month would hit a new record high. Optimax's shipment of polarizers for LCD TV panels has been increasing in the past few months and its LCD TV panel-use products are expected to account for about 10% of the company's total shipment in the fourth quarter. Optimax said that its LCD TV panel-use polarizers are available in 20, 23, 26, 27 and 30 inches.
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