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Lee heads to Asan display plant

Tour of local factories continues with a stop to rally the troops
Aug 27,2019
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Samsung Electronics Vice Chair Lee Jae-yong visits Samsung Display’s Asan factory in South Chungcheong on Monday. [SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS]
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong stressed the need to keep developing large-size panels during his visit to Samsung Display’s Asan factory in South Chungcheong on Monday.

“Crisis and opportunities constantly repeat themselves. We shouldn’t let go of large panels because the liquid crystal display (LCD) business is struggling at the moment,” Lee told Samsung Display executives. “We need to speed up technology development to gain future leadership.”

The comment comes after a score of local media outlets reported last Wednesday that Samsung was cutting production of LCD panels in response to worsening profits. The main reason was the advances of Chinese display makers, backed by a national drive to develop the country’s display industry.

The oversupply led to falling prices. In July, prices for 65-inch TV panels fell 24 percent on year to $185, according to IHS Markit. Another local player LG Display is also rumored to be considering LCD production cuts.

“The vice chairman’s visit was intended to encourage staff competing in a difficult market where Chinese panel makers are constantly pulling down profitability - and urge them to continue investments for future technology,” Samsung Electronics said in a statement.

During the trip, Lee visited production lines for Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) panels to meet with workers.

In a top-level executive meeting on Monday, he reviewed the mid- and long-term plans at Samsung Display and discussed strategies for future technology including the roadmap for large displays. Samsung Electronics’ Vice Chairman Kim Ki-nam, who is head of device solutions, Samsung Display CEO Lee Dong-hoon and other executives at the display subsidiary attended the meeting.

Samsung Display is well known for its LCD panels for large screens including televisions, but for years it has internally developed technology for Quantum-dot OLED, or QD-OLED, which requires a higher level of technology compared to LCD and therefore is intended to help boost the company’s competitive edge against Chinese rivals.

Industry sources and analysts are guessing Samsung will soon announce an investment plan to produce QD-OLED panels in place of downsized LCD production.

Samsung Display is also facing heated competition in smartphone OLEDs, where the company has traditionally been the top player with an 80 percent global market share. Samsung used to be a dominant supplier of Apple iPhone screens, but according to foreign and local reports, the U.S. IT firm is considering diversifying suppliers by adding China’s BOE and LG Display to the list for the next iPhone.

“Samsung Display is continuing efforts to develop next-generation technology like foldable displays, expand product lineup to vehicles and head-mounted displays and lead the market in large displays,” Samsung Electronics said in a statement.

Lee’s Monday trip is the latest stop as he makes the rounds of Samsung Electronics production facilities. Previous visits were made to the tech firm’s Onyang and Cheonan plant in South Chungcheong, a chip line in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi and Gwangju.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]