まず、以下の図で業界の利益率の全体像を見ていこう。中国の小規模FPDメーカー数社はQ4’21決算発表をまだ行っていないが、主要FPDメーカーが発表済みの内容から、業界の典型的な動きを見ることができる。図に示すように、利益率はQ2’21にピークに達し、クリスタルサイクルの底から頂点までの連続5四半期で最も高い値を記録した。Q4’21には予想通り利益率が大幅に低下、粗利益は10％減少し、純利益は5％減少した。Q4にはTV用LCD価格が平均で前期比32％安と過去最高の下落率を示したことから、LCDに重点を置く企業では利益率の下落幅がさらに大きくなっている。その一例が、TV用LCDに重点を置き第8.5世代/第8.6世代でのみ生産を行っている中国のFPDメーカー、CHOTだ。同社の営業利益率はQ3’21の+25％からQ4’21には-28％に急落している (CHOTの決算結果については出典レポートで別途説明している) 。
Panel Maker Q1 Earnings Preview
In the next few weeks, we will see the Q1 earnings announcements for flat panel display makers, starting with LG Display on Wednesday, April 27th. After a roller-coaster 2021, which saw both the biggest profits in the industry and sharply declining margins in the second half, we expect that panel makers will report another quarter of declining margins to begin 2022, which promises to be dramatically less profitable than last year.
First, let’s set the stage with an industry overview of margins in the first chart here. Although a few smaller panel makers in China have not yet reported Q4’21 financial results, the main panel makers have done so allowing a representative view. Margins peaked in Q2’21, capping a five-quarter run from the bottom of the Crystal Cycle to the top, as shown in the chart here. In Q4’21, as we expected, these margins were sharply reduced, with gross margins falling by 10% and net margins by 5%. The decline was even larger for the companies focused on LCD, as LCD TV panel prices declined by an average of 32% Q/Q, the largest Q/Q price decline ever, in Q4. As an example, Chinese panel maker CHOT, which has only Gen 8.5/8.6 production focused on LCD TV panels, saw its operating margin plummet from +25% in Q3’21 to -28% in Q4 (see separate story on CHOT financials in this issue).
Display Maker Quarterly Margins, 2015-2021
The second chart shows the operating margins of the larger companies in the industry on a shorter timescale of 2018-3Q’21. While the trend of the Crystal Cycle is clearly seen, there is a wide divergence of outcomes.
- Tianma went from outperforming most of the industry in the down cycle to underperforming during the Crystal Cycle peak, but Tianma operating margins declined less in Q4’21 than its large-screen-focused peers.
- SDC also generally sustained positive operating margins during the prior downturn and while it did not benefit much from the upswing in LCD panel prices in 2020-2021, as LCD prices have come down, SDC was once again the most profitable panel maker in Q4’21.
- AUO, BOE and LGD have been more sensitive to the cycle with margins falling sharply in Q4.
- While it benefited somewhat from the upswing in the Crystal Cycle in 2020-2021, LGD’s unprofitable OLED business kept its margins below that of its peers. However, the company’s reduced dependence on LCD means that it suffered less from LCD TV panel price declines in 2H’21.
Display Maker Quarterly Operating Margins, 2018-2021
In terms of guidance, companies expressed caution around guidance in their Q4 earnings calls in late January and early February:
- LGD expected area shipments to decrease by mid-to-high single digits % Q/Q, and area ASPs to decrease by mid-to-high teens % based on a seasonal decline in mobile shipments. The combination of lower shipments and lower price implied a revenue reduction of 20-25% Q/Q.
- AUO expected area shipments down by mid-single digits % and ASPs down by low-to-mid-single digits %, implying a revenue reduction of ~10% Q/Q.
- Innolux expected large panel shipments to be flat Q/Q, small/medium panel shipments down high-single digits % and blended ASP down by low-single digits %, implying a mid-single digit decline Q/Q in revenue.
For the Taiwan players, because they report monthly revenues and shipments, we now know that AUO’s revenues decreased by 12% Q/Q, which would roughly be in line with their guidance or perhaps slightly worse. Innolux’s revenues declined by 13%, worse than its guidance.
The table below shows analyst expectations for Q1 for the panel makers with analyst coverage, according to marketscreener.com. The analyst expectations for margins seem to be optimistic estimates, only slightly lower than Q4’21. At least in Taiwan, the panel makers underperformed the expectations for revenue.
AUO missed consensus revenue estimates by 3%, while Innolux missed consensus by 5%; it is likely that the rest of the income statement will follow a similar pattern. LGD’s guidance implies a decrease in revenues of 20%-25, and consensus estimates predict 22% revenue decrease Q/Q, so if LGD performed to their guidance they will be right in line with consensus.
According to DSCC’s Quarterly OLED Shipment Report, LGD revenues in US$ for OLED shipments decreased by 49% Q/Q in Q1, driven by a 64% decrease in mobile OLED displays for smartphones and a 35% decrease in revenues from OLED TV panels. LGD was helped in Q1’22 by a weakening of the Korean won against the dollar, as the won weakened by 2% Q/Q and by 8% Y/Y.
Perhaps just as important as the results will be the guidance given about Q2’22 and the rest of the year. With panel prices continuing to decline and reaching cash costs, and concerns about both supply and demand uncertainties, we believe that panel makers will again be cautious about prospects for the rest of 2022.
Quarterly Display Supply Chain Financial Health Report
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