By Kang Yoon-seung
SHENZHEN, China, April 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean panel maker LG Display Co. will accelerate its shift from the LCD to OLED business with a new production line in China and expects to get a boost from the country's demand potential, a senior official said.
LCD screens use a backlight to illuminate their pixels, while pixels on OLEDs actually produce their own light. They are presently deemed to be the next-generation panel, mainly for their brighter luminance and extremely thin profiles.
LG Display has been looking for ways to expand its OLED business in the global market amid tougher competition with Chinese rivals in the LCD sector. China's BOE beat LG Display to become the world's top LCD maker in terms of shipments last year.
"OLED TVs are game changers that can replace LCD TVs, which have been suffering from falling market prices," Vice President Ko Kyu-young of LG Display's global promotion unit said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.
Ko was on a mission to promote LG Display's cutting-edge OLED displays during the China Information Technology Expo (CITE) 2019 held in Shenzhen, China's tech hub on the southeastern coast, hoping to expand its foothold in one of the fastest growing markets.
During the tech show attended by over 100,000 visitors, the South Korean display maker introduced an 88-inch 8K Crystal Sound OLED panel, which can make the screen double as a speaker.
LG Display highlighted that OLED displays stand out from LCD rivals as they are capable of reaching out to a wider scope of products beyond TVs thanks to their flexible characteristics, as seen in rollable TVs made with OLED technology.
Its overseas marketing efforts are especially important this year as the company is set to start operation of a new OLED plant in Guangzhou in the third quarter.
LG Display said it will roll out 60,000 OLED sheets per month at the Guangzhou factory in the initial stage, which would increase its total OLED sheet output monthly capacity to 130,000 units this year when combined with its production line at its South Korean factory in Paju, south of Seoul.
The LG Display executive expressed hope for rising demand for larger OLED TVs sized 55 inches and higher in China, the world's biggest market for TVs, as a growing number of Chinese TV makers are turning to OLED panels instead of adopting LCD, including Skyworth, Konka, Changhong, TCL and Hisense.
"China will play a great role in the expansion of the market for OLED TVs, thanks to the rising consumption power of the middle class in the country," Ko said. "While Europe is the world's biggest market for OLED TVs, China will catch up to the region soon."
The number of OLED TVs sold in China is expected to hit 270,000 units in 2019, soaring 70 percent on-year, eventually to reach 1 million units in 2021, according to industry tracker IHS Markit. China currently accounts for roughly 10 percent of its OLED sales, according to LG Display.
To better compete with other premium TVs, LG Display is working on reducing "burn-in" issues on OLED displays, which refers to discoloration when kept on for long periods, and develop other technologies to improve its functions, Ko said.
"All the latest technologies, such as artificial intelligence, fifth-generation networks and the Internet-of-Things, need displays to show information. OLED displays can play a bigger role," Ko said.
LG Display swung to 179 billion won (US$160 million) in net deficit in 2018 due to a drop in prices of large LCD panels stemming from a global supply glut. Its annual operating profit tumbled 96.2 percent on-year to 93 billion won, and sales dropped 12.4 percent to 24.3 trillion won.
The company shipped 2.9 million units of large OLED panels last year, which accounted for over 20 percent of its total sales, turning to a surplus for the first time in five years since the panels' launch.