Matsushita's Big Plans For Plasma

Ian Rowley

The battle between producers of LCD, plasma and other flat TV screens shows no sign of letting up. Today, Matsushita Electric Industrial announced that it will spend $2.5 billion to build the world’s biggest plasma TV plant. The plant will be located in Japan's Hyogo prefecture and be capable of building 12 million sets a year. Building will start in November with production expected to begin in May 2009.

The new plant will help Matsushita cement its position as the world's number one plasma TV maker. Last year Matsushita had around 40% of the plasma market, which accounts for 18% of the global flat screen biz. Another 8 million unit capacity new plasma plant is already under construction.

For all that, Matsushita's plan is as much about cost cutting as increasing volumes. According the Nihon Keizai, a Japanese newspaper, the company is also expected to gradually phase out production at two other older, more expensive plants in Japan, which currently produce 3 million sets a year. The Nikkei reckons the newest plant could reduce the cost of making a new set to $235, compared to $420 for a set produced at Sharp's newest LCD plant.

Rivals, including Sharp, are also thinking big. Earlier this week at CES show in Las Vegas, the Osaka-based company showed off a huge 108 inch LCD TV. Five inches bigger than Matsushita's largest plasma offering, Sharp's giant model, which will likely go on sale in the summer, takes the crown of world's biggest TV.

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