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OLED pioneer UDC marks 20-year Nasdaq milestone with upbeat outlook

09 May 2016

New Jersey firm expects sales to jump 15% this year as CEO hails 'amazing time' for OLED technology.

OLED materials developer Universal Display Corporation (UDC) has celebrated its 20-year anniversary as a Nasdaq-listed company with an upbeat outlook for the rest of 2016.

Although revenues were down year-on-year in the opening quarter of the year, CEO Steve Abramson described the current period as an “amazing time” for OLED as commercial and developmental activity ramps up among both display and lighting applications.

He is expecting full-year revenues for the Ewing, NJ, company to increase 15 per cent in 2016, reaching somewhere around the $220 million mark.

UDC rings the Nasdaq opening bell on April 20th 2016 in celebration of its 20-year listing:

‘Just the beginning’
For now, displays remains by far the dominant application, although Audi’s anticipated roll-out of OLED tail-lights for its latest TT RS model could herald the start of a burgeoning new market in automotive as the technology matures.

Reflecting on the company’s 20-year Nasdaq presence, Abramson said: “Looking back for a moment, Universal Display was founded on a vision. A vision of creating energy-efficient OLED technologies for displays and lighting even before flat panel displays were mainstream, and bulky cathode-ray tubes were still in everyone's home.”

“Since we went public in April 1996, our market cap has grown from $47 million to over $2.5 billion,” he added. “Since we rang the Nasadaq bell on our tenth anniversary ten years ago, our revenue has grown from $10 million to $191 million [in fiscal 2015], a CAGR of 36%. And this is just the beginning.”

The CEO also alluded to rumors that Apple’s iPhone would soon feature an OLED display, telling an investor conference call:

“The OLED landscape continues to expand from new product launches, capacity announcements, equipment bookings, a robust pipeline of OEM design activities, including much chatter about additional OEMs adopting OLED technology for their smartphones.”

While Apple is keeping its usual counsel about if and exactly when it will adopt OLEDs for the iPhone, reports of a deal struck with Samsung Display and a surge in orders for Coherent lasers used in OLED production suggest that the huge capacity needed to service the Cupertino company’s requirements is now being put in place.

Samsung, which along with LG Display is a crucial royalty-paying customer for UDC, has long used OLEDs in its Galaxy smart phones and is known to be evaluating the technology for virtual reality, automotive and public information display applications.

With its production of OLED TVs rising significantly, LG Display was UDC’s largest customer in the latest quarter, and Abramson said that the Korean firm’s enormous “P-10” fab – which will be used partly to make OLED TVs – was on track to be completed in around two years’ time.

“On the TV front, LG Display reiterated investment plans to increase its OLED TV production by 75 per cent,” said the CEO, adding that the company was still aiming to ship one million OLED TVs this year and had recently signed a technology development deal with Bang & Olufsen that will see the Danish luxury electronics firm launch its first OLED TV next year.

LG Display is also set to invest another $270 million to boost flexible OLED manufacturing capacity, Abramson added.

Meanwhile the $3.5 billion acquisition of Sharp by Chinese manufacturing giant and key Apple partner Foxconn also looks set to benefit OLEDs. Foxconn is reportedly investing more than a billion dollars in Sharp’s OLED display activity, as it targets a production ramp to 10 million units by 2019, reported Abramson.

Lighting opportunity
Switching to opportunities in lighting, the UDC CEO highlighted his company’s recent partnership with Osram - likely to be focused on automotive applications – and LG Display’s plans to build the world’s first Gen-5 OLED plant specifically for lighting.

“The first phase is expected to be 15,000 substrates per month,” Abramson noted. “LG Display plans to initially focus on task lighting and decorative lighting in high-end retail stores and in luxury hospitality and then expand into the general lighting market.

“LG Display will also focus on automotive and convergence applications such as OLED light panels merged with furniture, architectural materials, electronic devices, and more.”

With OLED penetration currently estimated at around only 10 per cent of consumer electronics displays – largely Samsung and LG handsets – the CEO sees plenty of opportunity for UDC to benefit from the available headroom.

Investors seem to agree with that assessment, with shares in the company currently trading close to the record high of $58.31 set just last month. At just under $56, UDC’s market capitalization sits at $2.6 billion.

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