AU Optronics earnings up 160pc on panel LCDs
TIM CULPAN in Taipei
Earnings at AU Optronics increased 160 per cent last year and the Taiwanese maker of liquid crystal displays (LCD) expects strong sales to continue, especially for larger panels in televisions and computer monitors.
Optronics, the world's third-largest manufacturer of LCDs, said it earned NT$15.66 billion (HK$3.65 billion) last year.
Almost half the amount was recorded in the fourth quarter, a seasonally strong period for the sector, which saw Optronics post NT$7.6 billion in net income, up 51.2 per cent on the previous quarter.
A strong performance was posted for both the top and bottom lines, with shipment growth boosting sales 38.5 per cent for the year to NT$104.9 billion.
The rebound appears to be strongly demand driven as indicated by a rise in average selling prices and unit sales, a fact which has helped margins expand from 8 per cent in 2002 to 14.9 per cent last year.
Volume shipments of large panels grew 42.4 per cent for the year, while blended average selling prices for large panels grew 29 per cent.
Shipments of large panels will continue to grow despite a usually slow period for the industry, with executives pointing to an increase in volumes of about 5 per cent for the present quarter.
Shipments of small and medium-sized panels will decline by more than 10 per cent, according to company guidance.
Large panels are used in televisions and computer monitors, while small and medium-sized panels are being used in notebook computers and personal digital assistants.
Flat-screen monitors accounted for 60 per cent of revenue in the fourth quarter, notebook computers accounted for 24 per cent.
While starting from a small base a year ago, the use of Optronics panels in televisions continues to grow strongly and should account for 5 per cent of sales this quarter. The company does not expect solid demand for its panels in televisions until this time next year.
In the long term, Optronics is looking to continued growth in large-panel sales and will be adding further production capacity at its fifth-generation plant in the coming year.
Subsequent generations produce progressively larger panels. This year, Optronics will double its capital expenditure to NT$85 billion, much of which will go towards its latest factory, which will be capable of producing 70,000 1100x1300mm glass substrates a month.
By comparison, the company's present leading plant produces 50,000 1100x1250mm glass substrates per month.
The facility will launch in the third quarter before hitting full capacity in the fourth quarter and will more than double Optronics' square-footage capacity.
The company said all plants would be running at full capacity this quarter.