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iSuppli: Black Friday Not Threatened By Panel Shortages

El Segundo, Calif. — TV display industry market research firm iSuppli said Friday that a shortage of glass used to make panels for certain sizes of LCD TVs is not likely to affect Black Friday promotional pricing in this year.

A shortfall of certain glass panels used for LCD TVs and other display products has started to drive up prices of LCD panel components, iSuppli said, but the firm said the supply issue is likely to be resolved by the time LCD TV brands begin to offer their customary Black Friday deals.

“Amid an extreme oversupply situation in the fourth quarter of 2008, suppliers of glass for the kinds of large-sized LCD panels used in televisions started cutting capacity to less than 50 percent of full utilization at the end of 2008,” said Sweta Dash, iSuppli LCD research senior director. “Some glass makers even shut down some of their glass-producing tanks.”

In the face of this, suppliers now are unable to increase their LCD panel production capacity, even as TV demand increases, especially in China.

As a result, global prices for large-sized LCD panels are expected to rise for a fifth consecutive month in June, iSuppli said.

However, iSuppli said it expects prices for nearly all sizes of LCD TV panels to peak in September before starting a decline that will persist through the remainder of 2009 and into 2010.

“This will help pave the way for the customary round of price reductions and Black Friday deals that historically have driven LCD TV sales during the holiday selling season,” Dash predicted.

“If the LCD TV brands hope to come anywhere near their sales targets for 2009, they will have to offer aggressive pricing deals during Black Friday and the following weeks,” said Riddhi Patel, iSuppli’s principal television analyst. “If the deals don’t materialize, sales this year will fall well short of predictions.”

Pricing for 32-inch 720p LCD TVs are expected to decline to $480 by November, with Black Friday specials possibly as low as $299. This is down from an average of $634 in June, said iSuppli.

For 42-inch FullHD or 1080p sets, pricing in November will fall to $628, down from $856 in June. Black Friday specials could be as low as $499.

While LCD TV buyers have increased their focus on factors like picture quality, pricing remains a critical element in influencing purchasing decisions, said iSuppli.

The firm said LCD TV sales have started softening this month due to the cessation of pricing deals offered in April and May.

“Once the price deals went away, demand went away,” Patel said.

Pricing is the key factor driving consumers to recommend an LCD TV model or brand to their friends and family members, according to iSuppli’s U.S. TV Consumer Preference Analysis Service, which uses surveys to determine American consumer attitudes.

In the meantime, the LCD panel market will continue to struggle with the glass shortage issue.

Unlike some raw materials, whose production can be ramped up quickly to meet changes in the level of demand, it takes time for glass makers to restore manufacturing to previous levels, iSuppli observed.

“Depending on the level of deactivation of a glass furnace, it may take from one to six months to restore it to full production. Because of this, iSuppli expects the glass shortage won’t be resolved until September, by which time panel suppliers will be able to increase capacity and expand supply,” the company said.

Beyond reduced panel costs, television brands also are set to reduce prices by utilizing less expensive sales channels, iSuppli said.

“Consumers are becoming more comfortable with buying LCDs from Internet retailers and mass merchandisers, and they have become more concerned about paying too much for a television set,” Patel observed. “These outlets offer televisions at lower prices than traditional electronics specialty stores.”

iSuppli recently boosted its forecast of 2009 LCD TV sales to 123 million units, up from 110 million before.

iSuppli predicts global LCD TV sales will rise 23.5 percent in 2009 compared to 2008.