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Konka, Funai/Mitsubishi Venture To Bow DVD Players

Starting prices on DVD players will be heading down starting this fall with the introduction of the first model from Konka, the China-based video hardware giant, and the expected shipment starting late this year, or early next, of models produced by a just-formed joint venture of Funai and Mitsubishi.

Konka said its initial DVD player, to be shipped to dealers in late October, will be its $199-suggested-retail KD1800U, a full-featured remote model with a silver finish. Konka said its player supports up to eight different language sound tracks with onscreen display and comes with A/V, S-Video and composite video outputs.

Separately, in Japan, Funai and Mitsubishi have announced the formation of Digitec Industrial, a joint venture for the production of DVD players for export to the U.S.

Mitsubishi is 51% owner of the venture, which has been capitalized at $175,000. The venture is intended to combine Funai’s low-cost production capability with Mitsubishi’s digital video know-how.

DVD player production is scheduled to start at a 30,000 monthly rate at a Funai plant in China, just north of the Hong Kong border.

The players will be sold under both the Funai and Mitsubishi brands, and all are initially targeted for the U.S. market. Exports to other markets will be made later. The venture will get tech support from an R&D center set up in a Kyoto plant of Mitsubishi’s A/V Equipment Division.

Mitsubishi said that for the time being, it will continue buying players from Toshiba, currently its only supply source. The venture is expected to have $26 million in factory sales in its first year of operation and $87 million in its second.

Funai, which markets here under the Funai, Symphonic and Sylvania brands, said it views DVD players as the natural replacement for what it expects will be a declining market for VCRs.

For Mitsubishi, the availability of popularly priced DVD players is seen helping it achieve a 20% jump to $3.1 billion in its consolidated A/V sales in fiscal 2001 and restore profitability at its consumer electronics operation.

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