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Plasma prices are set to fall by a fifth according to Samsung. The news comes as the big screen battle hots up between LCD and Plasma.

Samsung SDIthe world’s top plasma display panel maker, expects panel prices to fall by a fifth this year despite a shortage that is likely to last until the first half of 2007, a company executive said in Asia this week.

“This year, we are forecasting about a 20 percent fall in prices,” Chris Kim, vice president of Samsung SDI’s plasma sales and marketing team, said at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in Hong Kong. Prices of plasma panels, a key component of plasma flat televisions, slumped 25 percent last year as manufacturers ramped up production and cut prices to draw consumers away from boxy, smaller cathode-ray TVs.

“Right now, it is very important to increase the consumer base by lowering the cost. Once the industry is mature, we can start to see prices increase,” Kim said. The company’s plasma operation, which generates roughly 30 percent of total revenues, is expected to ship in the first quarter of this year slightly fewer than the 700,000 panels it shipped in the fourth quarter of last year because its number-three line is under construction for upgrades, he said.

Surging demand for flat TVs has panel makers stepping up investment in new plants, and global production is projected to jump to 11-12 million plasma display panels this year from 7.2 million last year, he said. Samsung SDI, which has 29 percent of the world plasma display market, competes mainly with South Korea’s LG Electronics and Japan’s Matsushita Electric Industrial owners of the Panasonic brand, LG has a 26 percent share and Matsushita 25 percent.

Kim said his company planned to start production at its number-four plasma display line in the first half of 2007 to meet that growing demand.

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