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The plasma market is set to hit a brick wall soon as LCD TV panel shipments have exceeded plasma for the first time claim market analysts.

 LCD TV panel shipments were larger than plasma TV panel shipments at 37″ + for the first time in Q3 2006 and are poised to overtake plasma at 40″+ as early as Q4 2006.

Plasma panel shipments, the panels found in plasma TVs and public displays, rose 17% Q/Q and 47% year/year in Q3’06 to a record 2.8M units. This according to data released by DisplaySearch.

Despite the record results and seemingly healthy growth, Q3’06 growth was significantly slower than any other quarter to date with year/year growth over the past 12 quarters ranging between 73% and 170%. Furthermore, plasma panel suppliers are expecting even slower growth in Q4’06, up 20% year/year to 3.2M units. Assuming plasma panel suppliers hit their Q4’06 targets, 2006 panel shipments will rise 49% year/year in 2006 to 10.7M units which is less than half the growth of previous years.

Slower plasma panel unit growth can be explained by a number of factors such as slower capacity growth of just 46% in 2006 compared with 92% in 2004 and 66% in 2005.

Also contributing is migration to larger sizes. The 50″+ share of worldwide plasma panel shipments has doubled from 12% in Q3’05 to 24% in Q3’06.

Increased competition from LCD TVs below 50″. 40″-47″ LCD TV panel shipments have risen 560% from Q3’05 to Q3’06 to 2.4M units, taking significant share from plasma as 720p prices approach parity while 1080p LCDs offer increased differentiation. LCD TV panel shipments were larger than plasma TV panel shipments at 37″+ for the first time in Q3’06 and are poised to overtake plasma at 40″+ as early as Q4’06.

By supplier, LGE led on a unit basis on 27% growth to overtake Matsushita and was the only supplier to gain share. It was #1 for the second time in three quarters. On the other hand, Matsushita led on a revenue basis for the third time over the last four quarters due to its emphasis on higher resolutions.

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