Samsung sees strong demand for flat-panel TVs

Strong demand for big screen TVs should lead the global flat-panel TV market to greater than anticipated growth this year, a Samsung executive said Monday.

Strong demand for slim, big-screen televisions helped in part by this month's World Cup should lead the global flat-panel TV market to greater than anticipated growth this year, a Samsung Electronics executive said Monday.

"Sales are going very well," said David Steel, vice president of marketing for Samsung's digital media business, in an interview at the company's headquarters in Suwon, south of Seoul. "The market for flat-panel TV looks like it's up 100 percent over last year."

"In terms of plasma [display panel TVs] we see about 9 [million] to 10 million units this year, that's up from 5 [million] last year, and for LCD probably this year we could get close to 40 million LCD TVs, that's up from 20 million last year. We originally thought 30 [million] to 35 [million] but with the strong demand probably 40 million is possible," he said.

The world's biggest electronics companies are locked in a tough battle for market share in the flat-panel TV market. Leading the pack are four Asian vendors: Samsung, Sharp, Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic).

In the first four months of this year Samsung took a 12.7 percent share of the flat-panel TV market by unit sales, which gives it the number-two spot, according to NPD Techworld figures quoted by Steel. That places the company just behind Sony, which had a 12.9 percent share, and just ahead of Sharp and Panasonic in the year-to-date rankings.

The company's series 51 and 52 LCD (liquid crystal display) TVs launched in April have been popular with consumers, said Steel. The sets, whose shape is inspired by a wine glass, are helping Samsung give Sony a run for its money. In the last couple of weeks Samsung advanced to number one position in the U.S. market, according to Steel.

"Of course, things could change, but we think now we are really beginning to see the performance of our new models," he said. "So it's a good sign for the U.S."

For the rest of the year, Samsung plans to launch several LCD televisions. They include a 19-inch version of the strong-selling, wine-glass style TV due in the U.S. market in August. A 40-inch LCD TV with LED (light emitting diode) backlight will hit Europe by September and the U.S. next year. Samsung's 57-inch LCD TV that is already available in the U.S. will be launched in Europe in August.

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Martyn Williams

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