LCD TV Panel Prices Edging Up in Q1
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After a pause in December and January, LCD TV panel prices are increasing again from their all-time lows. With LCD fab utilization well below normal levels, TV supply chain inventories have been decreasing and panel purchases have started to recover. While the price increases are undoubtedly welcomed by panel makers, the industry remains in a difficult position with prices below cash costs.
The first chart here highlights our latest TV panel price update to June 2023, showing the post-pandemic price plunge from mid-2021 to summer 2022. Prices hit their all-time lows in September 2022 and increased modestly in October and November. After a two-month pause, prices increased again in February and will increase again in March.
Because of a V-shaped pattern of prices in Q3 and Q4, the average price was close to flat on a Q/Q basis for Q4’22, increasing an average of only 0.1%, even though December prices were 3% higher than September prices. Panel makers are seeing a true Q/Q benefit in Q1’23, with average prices now expected to be up 2.7% Q/Q.
LCD TV Panel Prices
While prices for larger size panels (50” through 75”) increased in February, the smaller size panels under 50” did not enjoy the same increase, as the TV supply chain inventory correction has been slower in the smaller sizes. We expect prices for all sizes of LCD TV panels to increase in March, with the M/M increase ranging from 1.5% to 3.9%.
The pattern of prices mimics a similar pattern in fab utilization as shown in the next chart. Although the utilization pattern varied for individual companies, total TFT LCD fab utilization hit bottom in September 2022 with fabs running at only 61% of capacity. UT% increased modestly in October and November and then paused in December but resumed its increase in Q1’23.
TFT LCD Monthly Fab Utilization by Manufacturer
As we look at pricing on an area basis, we are seeing a narrowing of the range of prices. The larger screen sizes up to 85” enjoyed a significant price premium over smaller sizes, but the price premium for 65” was eliminated in Q2’22 and for the past year the price premium for 75” panels and for 85” panels has been rapidly eroded. The area premium for 75” and 85” will be further reduced in Q1 and Q2’23 as the prices for smaller sizes increase at a faster rate.
Monthly Area Prices per Square Meter for TV Panels
In June 2022, a 75” panel was priced at $144 per square meter, a $41 or 40% premium over the 32” area price. In September 2022 when the market hit bottom, the 75” premium over 32” had dropped to $37 but was still the same in percentage terms at 40%. By January 2023, the 32” price had increased while the 75” price did not, reducing the premium to $23 per square meter or 21%. With price increases continuing in Q2 2023, by June the 75” price will be only $19 or 16% higher than the price for 32”.
The lower panel prices and soft demand led to operating losses for panel makers relying on LCD production in Q3 and Q4 2022. The average operating margin across the flat panel display industry in Q3, excluding SDC, was a 13% loss. We still await the results of the big Chinese panel makers, but LGD’s operating margin got slightly worse while both AUO and Innolux improved their operating margin slightly. The price increases in Q1’23 along with higher fab utilization are likely to allow for another modest improvement in panel maker operating margins, but they are likely to remain deeply in the red through the first half of 2023.
Our final chart in this sequence shows our LCD TV panel price index, taking a longer view from 2015 through June 2023. The expected price increases in March 2023 will bring our index up to 34, compared to the low of 30.5 in September 2022. We expect the price index to cross into positive territory in June 2023 on a Y/Y basis for the first time since September 2021.
LCD TV Panel Price Index
Although it appears that the worst is over for panel prices, the industry’s capacity still far outstrips the likely demand for the foreseeable future. The modest rally in the first half of 2023 will help panel makers to reduce their losses, but LCD makers will need prices to continue to increase in the second half of the year to bring operating margins into the black.
Quarterly All Display Fab Utilization Report
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