By James Wells

Tokyo, JAPAN: IPS Alpha, a joint venture between consumer electronics manufacturers including Panasonic’s parent company Matsushita and Hitachi, has announced it will invest 80 billion Yen ($A950 million) to expand production due to increased demand for flat panel TVs.

The joint venture will set up new facilities at its LCD plant in Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo for 68 billion Yen, which will help double production capacity there by the second half of the fiscal year ending March 2008.

IPS Alpha Technology said it will double its annual production capacity of 32-inch televisions to about five million panels from an estimated 2.5 million panels, which the plant is slated to reach by January 2007.

Earlier this month, the joint venture kicked off mass-production of LCD panels with an annual capacity of 1.6 million panels.  The company will also spend 12 billion Yen tto build a new assembly plant in the Czech Republic. The facility is slated to start operations from the second half of the fiscal 2007. The new plant will transform LCD panels shipped from Japan into LCD modules after installing polarisation plates and other materials. These modules will then be supplied to Matsushita and Hitachi plants in Europe.

Hitachi Australia general manager – marketing and sales, Geoff Hannaford said the joint venture will boost production capacity for liquid crystal display (LCD) panels and will strengthen its ability to battle with companies including Sharp and Samsung’s joint venture with Sony called S-LCD.

“Demand for flat-panel TVs is growing worldwide ahead of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in June and the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games," Hannaford said.

"It is necessary to ramp up output further to cater to market expansion from fiscal 2008 onward."