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Panel prices to stay high after explosion at S. Korean plant: report

This photo, provided by Gyeongbuk Fire Service Headquarters last Friday, shows the inside of AGC Fine Techno Korea's plant in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province, following an explosion accident. (Gyeongbuk Fire Service Headquarters)
This photo, provided by Gyeongbuk Fire Service Headquarters last Friday, shows the inside of AGC Fine Techno Korea's plant in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province, following an explosion accident. (Gyeongbuk Fire Service Headquarters)
An explosion accident at a glass substrate plant in South Korea is likely to exacerbate the tight supply of display panels and maintain their prices at a high level, market watchers said Wednesday, burdening TV makers' procurement efforts.

The explosion occurred last Friday when workers were replacing old pipes connected to a furnace at AGC Fine Techno Korea Co.'s glass substrate manufacturing plant in Gumi, some 250 kilometers south of Seoul. The accident injured nine workers, according to the local authorities.

The plant, owned by Japan's major display glassmaker AGC Inc., formerly known as Asahi Glass Co., mainly produces TFT-LCD glass substrates and supplies them to Chinese display makers.

According to market researcher TrendForce, the explosion will affect no more than 1 percent of the total global supply of glass substrates for display panels, but it could further hike panel prices.

"At this sensitive moment, any event that affects the supply of panel components could exert significant influence on panel prices," it said. "TrendForce does not rule out the possibility that this latest incident will also further bolster panel prices to some degree."

Industry observers point out that the explosion at the AGC plant came at a time when other major display glassmakers -- Corning Inc. and Nippon Electric Glass (NEG) Co. -- are also trying to recover from their supply-constraining issues, such as logistics difficulties caused by the pandemic, while demand for displays is soaring amid the pandemic-induced stay-at-home economy.

"Both Corning and NEG had initially anticipated to resume normal supply starting from the end of the first quarter of 2021, though the furnace explosion of AGC has created new variables to the overall supply of glass substrates," TrendForce said.

The market researcher previously predicted that prices of TV panels would keep rising to the end of the first quarter of 2021 and then drop slightly in the second half of the second quarter on demand fluctuations.

Prices of TV panels have been going upward over the past several months and are still rising. For example, the average price of a 55-inch LCD TV panel stood at $180 as of end-January, up 2.3 percent from early January, according to WitsView, a research division of TrendForce.

But with the latest accident at the AGC unit in South Korea, TrendForce revised its forecast, saying that the tight glass supply may last until the summer.

"Panel prices may continue to stay at a high point through the second quarter of 2021 and maintain this trend until late the third quarter of 2021 before further adjustments could take place," it said. (Yonhap)
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