Matsushita looks to take over LCD venture it has with Hitachi and Toshiba

Traditionally the realm of large screen HDTVs over 40-inches in size belongs to plasma-based technology. LCD HDTV’s typically max out at 46-inches. Once you hit the 50-inch and over flat panel TV realm, plasma is your main choice.

Two Japanese flat panel makers, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co and Hitachi Ltd are in talks on a deal that would move Matsushita into the LCD panel market in a much larger way. Currently, Matsushita is the world’s largest maker of plasma HDTVs and is the maker of HDTVs under the Panasonic name.

The deal would have Matsushita taking over a joint venture making LCD panels it has with Hitachi and Toshiba. Part of the deal would also have Matsushita investing $2.7 billion into a new LCD factory as well.

Shinko Securities analyst Hideki Watanabe told Reuters, “The timing is just too late.”  If the deal is closed and Matsushita invests the money into a new LCD factory, the new plant wouldn’t come online until around 2010.

Analysts say that demand for LCD TVs is expected to peak in 2009 due to broadcasters in the United States and other countries making the move to digital broadcasting. This move is one of the major motivating factors behind the booming LCD TV market currently as consumer’s trade larger analog CRT based TVs for flat panels.

The problem with Matsushita’s plan for its new factory according to The Nikkei is that the factory would likely use eight-generation mother glass. By time the factory goes online, competitors like Sony and Samsung will have been working with the eight-generation glass for years longer and Sharp will  be using LCD panels with tenth generation glass.

Reuters reports that Canon, most well known for its digital cameras and printers, wants to invest in Hitachi as a route to bringing OLED panels for its line of digital cameras and printers in house to reduce costs.

OLED TVs have been big news recently with the promise of thinner panels. Currently the process of building OLED panels is immature making costs for TVs based on OLED technology like the Sony XEL-1 more than the market can support in quantity. Toshiba announced just this week that it would not bring its promised OLED TVs to market in 2009 citing cost concerns.

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