Sony, Sharp Open New LCD TV Plants

Sony Corp. and Sharp Corp., two of the largest manufacturers of LCD (liquid crystal display) televisions, have both opened new factories to produce the hot-selling flat-panel TV sets.

Sony has begun production of flat-panel televisions at a new %11 billion (US$93.6 million) plant in Slovakia while Sharp has started operations at a second factory inside its Sharp Electrsnica Mexico S.A. de C.V. plant in Mexico.

The Sony factory in Nitra is manufacturing large-size, high-end LCD (liquid crystal display) sets and the start of operations there is a step towards a reorganization of Sony's TV manufacturing operations in Europe.

Sony already has two TV plants in Europe, one in nearby Trnava and one in Barcelona, Spain. During 2008 the TV production lines at Trnava will be relocated to Nitra to push annual production at Nitra to 3 million sets. Once that relocation is complete the Trnava plant will be used to produce TV tuners for the sets while TV production will continue at Nitra and Barcelona.

European consumers are fast adopting flat-panel televisions like those produced at Nitra. During the second quarter of this year 97 percent of all TVs shipped on the continent were flat-panel sets, according to Display Search. That ranks Europe second to Japan, where 99 percent of TVs were flat panel, and ahead of North America, where 88 percent of TVs shipped were flat panel.

Competing TV manufacturers are also building factories in Europe to handle production for the region. In July Toshiba Corp. began mass production at a new plant in Poland.

Other companies including Sharp, LG.Philips LCD Co. Ltd., Samsung SDI Co. Ltd. and IPS Alpha Technology Ltd. are also planning or building factories in Eastern Europe that will produce bare LCD or PDPs (plasma display panels) or other components for use in TV sets.

Sharp's Mexican plant will produce sets for North America, where demand is also strong thanks to digital high-definition television broadcasting and computer gaming systems.

The plant will initially be able to product 2.4 million sets per year. Sharp plans to gradually increase this to 4.8 million sets per year by 2009.

Demand for LCD TVs in North America is expected to reach 23 million units this year, up 50 percent from last year according to a Sharp forecast.

The new production line brings up to date the factory that has been producing TV sets since 1997. It started off making CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions and the first LCD TV production line was added in 2003.

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