Thursday, December 16, 2010

LCD Makers Under Fire

Europe levies €649 million in fines, mostly against Taiwanese companies. Hundreds of millions more are at stake

Photo: Imaginechina/AP Photo
15 December 2010—Taiwanese manufacturers of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels are now under pressure following the European Commission’s announcement last week that five Asian electronics companies would be fined €649 million (US $866 million) for operating a price-fixing cartel that harmed European buyers of television sets, computers, mobile phones, and other products that use the key LCD component.
Korea’s Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest flat-panel maker, received full immunity from fines under the EC’s leniency program, as it was the first to provide information about the cartel to government investigators. The commission accused the six companies of fixing prices on LCD panels between October 2001 and February 2006. The cartel members met around 60 times, mainly in hotels in Taiwan, for what they called "the Crystal meetings."
Among the five affected firms, Taiwan-based Chimei Innolux Corp. received the heaviest fine of €300 million ($401 million). The EC fined South Korea’s LG Display €215 million, Taiwan’s AU Optronics Corp. (AUO) €117 million euros, Taiwan’s Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) €9 million, and Taiwan’s HannStar €8 million. The EC says it took the companies’ sales revenue from panels into account when setting the fines, which were reduced in exchange for the companies’ cooperation: LG by 50 percent, AUO by 20 percent, and CPT by 5 percent.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Confidence Remains in South Korean Tech Industry Despite Tensions

Little effect in memory and displays so far

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

30 November 2010—South Korea dominates two important global technology industries: memory chips and flat-panel displays. The deadly artillery battle on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island last week has put the peninsula in its most tense state in decades. But it remains to be seen if that tension will have a negative effect on its technology sector, or if competing companies in other countries can turn the uncertainty to their advantage.
Together, South Korean companies Samsung Electronics and Hynix Semiconductor have more than a 60 percent share of the dynamic RAM market, according to the market research firm iSuppli, in El Segundo, Calif. Any disruption in their ability to produce and deliver DRAM would have a huge impact on the electronics industry, says Mike Howard, a senior analyst at iSuppli. DRAM is critical to making smartphones, televisions, computers, and tablets.
"If the current tensions between North and South Korea present supply challenges for Korean DRAM makers, then Taiwan would certainly benefit from the tightness in supply, as would Elpida Memory in Japan and Micron Technology in the United States," Howard says. Taiwan is home to many of the top 10 DRAM makers, but none of the top four.