Saint-Gobain mulls entering LCD glass market

Saint-Gobain, one of the world's leading glass companies, is considering entering the business of highly pure glass for liquid-crystal display screens, a booming area of the electronics industry, the Financial Times reported, citing the company's chief executive.

Jean-Lous Beffa, Saint-Gobain's CEO, said yesterday that his company could enter the LCD glass business "quite soon".

The Paris-based company would compete with Corning, the US specialist glass supplier, and Asahi of Japan, Saint-Gobain's rival and the world's biggest maker of flat glass for windows.

"Glass for flat screen displays is such a big and fast growing area that we feel we would be in a strong position to enter the business and build up reasonable sales," said Beffa.

Last year, about 4,300 tonnes of high-purity glass for LCD screens - made in sheets 0.7mm in thickness and worth about 1.5 bln usd - were produced worldwide. Corning claims about half of the market, while the next biggest maker is Asahi with an estimated 20 pct share, the FT said.

Beffa said it was not necessarily a disadvantage to enter a business some time after it had become established. "Sometimes it can be profitable to make a late entry."

This year, world output of LCD glass is expected to be worth 2 bln usd, about a third higher than in 2003, the FT said.

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