LG Display's small and medium-sized flexible organic light emitting diode (OLED) display business is standing at a crossroads. The company entered this sector last year in a bid to take a share of the market dominated by Samsung Electronics. Yet before the company began to chase Samsung Electronics, it has been overtaken by BOE, a latecomer from China,
BOE vice president Zhang Yu recently said the company aims to supply 50 million flexible display panels for premium smartphones this year. This is far more than the market estimate of 20 million to 30 million units. The company supplied 3.3 million units last year. BOE recently announced that it will continue its aggressive investment in order to take the lead in the flexible OLED business.
Earlier, BOE put forward a plan to build a sixth-generation flexible OLED plant in Fuzhou, Fujian Province of China. This will be BOE's fourth flexible OLED plant. "BOE's flexible display competitiveness has been improving faster than expected," said an industry insider. “BOE is expected to pose a serious threat to Korean display makers in the future because the company is supported by the Chinese government and domestic companies such as Huawei.”
It is LG Display that is hit hardest by BOE's offensive. LG Display entered the flexible display market in 2017. But BOE joined the market as well with support from the Chinese government. BOE overtook LG Display last year. Market researcher IHS Markit said that Samsung Display dominated the market for flexible OLED displays for smartphones in the fourth quarter of last year with a 90.6 percent share. LG Display recorded a 4.2 percent market share, which was less than BOE’s 5.2 percent. Before, BOE's market share was less than 1 percent. LG Display and BOE posted 4 percent and 0.3 percent in market share, respectively, in the third quarter of last year.
For this reason, industry analysts are divided over whether LG Display should maintain its flexible OLED business for smartphones. "There is skepticism about the flexible OLED business for smartphones inside LG Display, too,” said an industry watcher. “Some insist that LG Display concentrate on displays for electronic devices for cars after shutting down its flexible OLED business for smartphones."