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Samsung to invest $11bn in cutting-edge quantum dot displays

Panel maker shifting away from LCD production to fend off Chinese rivals

The Samsung Galaxy Fold 5G features an OLED screen. The company is ramping up its investment in next-generation display technologies.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- Samsung Display will invest 13.1 trillion won ($11 billion) by 2025 to produce and further develop quantum dot display panels as the South Korean company races to stay ahead of Chinese rivals who have already caught up in earlier display technologies.

Samsung said on Thursday that it will use the investment to shift its production of large format panels away from cheaper liquid crystal displays to the more advanced QD, which is based on organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, technology. 

"Quantum dots are semiconductor particles which luminate close to natural colors. It is the future growth vision of the large display industry," said Samsung Display CEO Lee Dong-hoon in a statement. "With the investment we will lead the premium display market."

The announcement comes as LCD prices have plunged in recent years due to Chinese makers, backed by generous state subsidies, aggressively expanding production capacity. Sluggish demand for large TV sets amid a global economic slowdown and the U.S.-China trade war has also weighed on prices.

China has emerged as a major force in late-generation LCD production. National display champion BOE Technology began operating the country's first 10.5-generation LCD facility in 2017. The company started building its second such plant in April last year, with operation scheduled to begin next year.

Samsung said that the new 8.5-generation QD lines will produce 30,000 panels per month from 2021, which will be used for making super-large QD displays of 65 inches or more. To accelerate this project, the company will gradually transform its 8th-generation LCD lines into QD lines.

South Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Samsung will invest 10 trillion won in QD facilities, while the remaining 3.1 trillion won will be used for developing the technology.

"With Samsung Display’s investments this time, along with LG Display’s announcement in July that it will invest 7 trillion won, we expect our companies will strengthen their leading status in the global market by maintaining super-gaps in the display sector,” said the ministry in a statement.

LG Display, another South Korean display maker, is hoping it will be able to compete on technology rather than price. The company announced that it had begun producing 8.5-generation OLED panels in Guangzhou, China, as part of its goal of producing 10 million large OLED panels per year.

"LG Display, the pioneer and only manufacturer of large-size OLED panels in the world, plans to further widen the gap with its competitors and strengthen its leading position starting from the operation of its Guangzhou plant," said the company in a statement.

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