• Outlook gloomy for this year but second half will improve
  • Like Samsung, the company is exploring foldable displays

LG Display Co. will jack up investment on next-generation mobile screens as top customer Apple Inc. prepares to adopt ultra-thin, power-saving screens for iPhones as early as 2017.

Business conditions this year are worsening as iPhone sales slow and competition with Chinese panel suppliers intensifies. That’s why the world’s largest maker of liquid-crystal displays needs to shift investment to screens powered by organic light-emitting diodes (or OLEDs) as its rivals begin to make headway in the nascent market, Chief Executive Officer Han Sang Beom said.

Apple is said to be in exclusive talks for rival Samsung Display Co. to supply OLED panels as early as next year. Han concedes his company’s a relative latecomer to the scene and while the market remains small because of the technology’s cost, OLEDs will go mainstream in a matter of years. The company is also developing foldable displays, Han said without outlining the size or timing for future investments in screens.

“It’s true that we were late in OLED investment for smaller electronics devices compared to that of televisions,” Han said at a company event. “It’s undeniable that flexible OLEDs are now the mega-trend in the mobile segment and we will have to embrace that.”

Samsung, which is expected to boost investment in OLED displays as soon as this year, has already started to halt several older LCD lines to make room for the new technology. Han said LG Display must be careful not to abandon that market too swiftly because of its reliance on current TV and mobile screens. Demand in the second half may pick up as the year-end shopping season approaches, he said.

“We can’t help but rely on LCDs for the time being because our revenue from OLEDs still accounts for less than 10 percent” of its total, Han said. “We’ve never thought about giving up LCD, but we are considering gradually closing the older generation fabs.”

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