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Matsushita Electric, a leading maker of consumer electronics under Panasonic and Technics brand-named, and Toray Industries, a diversified chemical group, announced plans to build their fourth plasma display panel (PDP) manufacturing facility in Japan. When the fab reaches the full capacity by Q1 2009, Panasonic will obtain the world’s largest PDP facility on the planet and up to 44% market share.

The new PDP plant will cost Panasonic and Toray about $1.57 billion including constructions and equipment costs. The facility will be situated near the third plant by Matsushita PDP Company – a joint venture by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. and Torray Industries – in Amagasaki, Japan and will become the world’s largest plasma display panel facility with output up to 6 million panels per year (calculated on the basis of 42” screen-size panels). The companies will initiate construction in May 2006 and will begin production in July 2007 in a bid to reach the full capacity by March 2009. Panasonic's total PDP output will be lifted to 11.1 million panels per year.

“The new plant will employ state-of-the-art process technologies and production systems that are more advanced than those of the third plant in Amagasaki, which began production in September 2005,” said Ken Morita, president of MPDP. “The new systems and technologies will bring greater mass production efficiencies to the whole process while ensuring higher quality. Our new process technology allows a single substrate to yield up to eight 42” panels, the highest number in the world. According to a comprehensive production strategy aimed at further enhancing production efficiencies in all PDP plants, each production line will be specialized by screen size. As a result, MPDP will be able to supply PDPs with more speed and flexibility to meet the surging world demand.”

The new plant is Panasonic’s fifth PDP manufacturing facility. In addition to three other MPDP plants (two in Ibaraki and one in Amagasaki), Panasonic runs Shanghai Matsushita Plasma Display Co. in China.

Panasonic anticipates the global plasma display panel market will expand to 25 million panels by 2010. With its annual output capacity of over 11 million panels, the company aims to be the world’s top manufacturer of PDPs with about 44% market share, if its rivals do not build additional PDP facilities.

Panasonic expects the market of plasma displays to expand significantly as a result of transition to high definition digital television. The market of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) is also likely to broaden substantially because of the same reason. While plasma panels have advantage of faster response time and larger screens, LCDs are more cost efficient and offer smaller pixel size. That said, PDPs are more suitable for high-end TV sets with very large screens, as in case of smaller screens PDPs cannot offer HD resolutions, whereas the LCDs are more suitable for cost-efficient and mainstream HDTVs. Matsushita produces large LCD panels for TVs in collaboration with Toshiba.

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