Sharp's top European executive said on Wednesday that he is confident his company can recapture lost ground in the LCD television market later this year after falling from the number one position in late 2005.Sharp slipped from first to third place in LCD TV shipments in the fourth quarter of 2005, according to market researcher DisplaySearch. It was the first time that Sharp had lost its lead since the LCD TV market began, and came as Sony continued to aggressively expand its LCD TV sales."There was an obvious panel shortage problem," said Hans Kleis, CEO of Sharp Electronics Europe GmbH, at a news conference at the Cebit show in Hanover, Germany. "Looking to the near future, we may have some problems in the first half [of 2006] but we can absolutely catch-up in the second half because of the investment in Kameyama 1 and huge investment in Kameyama 2."He was referring to recently announced expansion at Sharp's main LCD panel production base in Kameyama, Japan. Sharp is investing $127 million to expand production at its first plant by 20%, and is also in the middle of building a second plant. Together, the two factories will be able to process up to 90,000 glass sheets per month when they hit full capacity in 2007. This is equivalent to 20 million panels for 32-inch televisions per year, assuming maximum yield.The company launched several new LCD TVs at Cebit destined for the European market. They included the 37-inch Aquos LC-37GE1E high-definition digital television, which will be available from June 2006.Sharp predicts the global market for LCD TVs will rise from 20 million units in 2005 to 36 million in 2006. In Europe, the company expects its own shipments to rise from 4 million in fiscal 2005 (the period from April 2005 to March 2006) to 6 million in fiscal year 2006, Kleis said.The fastest-growing segments of the European market are currently Eastern Europe, Spain and Scandinavia, he said.