Corning's Taiwan plant opens for business

Corning, one of the largest suppliers of glass used in making LCD screens, said its new $1.5 billion plant in Taichung, Taiwan is ready to begin shipping active matrix LCD glass substrates, just meeting a self-imposed deadline to start shipments this year.

The new plant will help Corning keep up with demand for large-size glass substrates, necessary because of strong demand for desktop monitors and the rapid adoption of LCD-TVs, the company said.

The company broke ground on the plant, its second such facility in Taiwan, in September 2004, and expects to hold a formal grand opening ceremony in January of next year.

A third phase of construction on the plant will run through 2007, Corning says. In October, the company's board of directors approved a $425 million addition to the plant.

Taiwan and South Korea vie for the title of the world's largest producer of LCD screens each year. South Korea boasts the two largest LCD screen makers in the world, Samsung Electronics and LG.Philips LCD, while Taiwan is home to five major LCD screen makers, including AU Optronics and Chi Mei Optoelectronics, the world's third and fourth largest LCD screen makers, respectively.

One of the considerations Corning took into account when it announced the Taichung plant project was a glass substrate supply agreement with Chi Mei Optoelectronics, which included a prepayment of $510 million.

The market for LCD screens is expected to continue to grow at breakneck speeds because of heavy demand in computer monitors and LCD-TVs, according to investment banking firm Lehman Brothers. Next year, LCD monitor shipments will rise 23% compared with this year, to 126 million units, while LCD-TV demand will leap 88% to 38 million units, Lehman said in a research report issued early this month.

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