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LG Display registers quarterly loss

Flat-panel maker LG Display incurred a second-straight quarter operating loss during the January-March period on falling panel prices triggered by dormant demand, the company said in a regulatory filing Monday.

Operating deficit for the first quarter of this year stood at 239.2 billion won ($219.2 million).

The figure was narrowed from 387 billion won in the fourth quarter of 2010, but industry watchers said the losses actually grew when considering the huge amount of fines the company paid last year for violating anti-monopoly laws.

Quarterly sales at the world’s No. 2 maker of liquid crystal display panels reached 5.3 trillion won, down 17 percent from the previous fourth quarter, and 9 percent from lower from the same period last year.

Net loss reached 115.4 billion won to record a second quarterly loss, compared with the 648.6 billion won net income LG Display posted a year earlier.

“Panel prices were far from being good due to the sluggish demand,” said Kang Jung-won, an analyst at Daishin Securities.

Persistently weak global demand for television and computer screens have been keeping prices down, despite a significant boom in smart devices. Japan’s massive earthquake in March also failed to be much of a boon for panel-makers, who had initially forecast short-term benefits from the disaster.

But both experts and company officials were upbeat about future prospects.

“The new technology has not yet been reflected but it should soon become a factor for the second quarter results,” Kang said.

LG Display has been garnered increasing attention and popularity for its latest film-type patterned retarder technology that has made LG’s 3-D TVs cheaper while improving its picture quality.

Samsung Electronics appeared to be viewing LG’s new technology as a threat, as seen in the verbal battles Samsung and LG engaged in over who has 3-D technology superiority.

A growing demand for smart devices, such as smartphones and tablet PCs, which all use panels, also was expected to help LG Display show better performance later this year, analysts said.

LG Display is a key panel supplier for Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

However, an overall recovery in the demand from television makers will also be needed, experts added.

Global TV sales were expected to stay almost unchanged this year at $119 billion, up just slightly from $118 billion last year despite efforts from TV-makers to launch higher-end products such as 3-D and smart TVs, according to Daewoo Securities estimates.

By Kim Ji-hyun (jemmie@heraldcorp.com)
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