CES-LG:LG targets 17pct TV sales jump, Google TV in Q1
By Miyoung Kim
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - LG Electronics Inc <066570.KS>, the world's No. 2 TV manufacturer, aims to boost television shipments by up to 17 percent this year and launch Internet-enabled TVs powered by Google's
LG, which has struggled with slim TV profit margins, saw profitability improving significantly in the fourth quarter, helped largely by solid U.S. sales over the Thanksgiving holiday, Lee Kwan-sup, vice president of marketing strategy at LG's Home Entertainment, told Reuters on Tuesday.
"TV sales margin improved significantly last quarter...to around the 2 to 3 percent range," Lee said in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
While still wafer-thin, that came after a negative 1 percent profit margin a year ago and 1.9 percent in the third quarter.
"It may sound like a very small profit but it is a quite significant number, given that many are still making losses from TVs," he said. "I'd say probably 5 percent will be the maximum margins that TV manufacturers can achieve."
TV makers are grappling with weak consumer demand and cut-throat competition, and hoping once again that premium products with slimmer designs, powerful chipsets and crisp displays will revive growth this year after a flat 2011.
In Las Vegas this week, LG unveiled its first Google TV, joining Sony Corp <6758.T> and Samsung Electronics Co <005930.KS> in partnering with the Internet search giant to get a foothold in an emerging Web-connected TV market.
LG and Samsung are also pushing their own versions of Internet TVs, as Google's attempt to replicate the success of its Android mobile software in the TV market has seen limited success so far, owing to a lack of applications and support from hardware manufacturers.
Lee said LG's Google TV will be available to U.S. consumers late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter.
"The Google TV experience has improved significantly with software upgrades, but our own Internet TVs offer more localised content through partnerships with major content providers, and they are globally available -- unlike Google TVs."
The South Korean firm plans to have around 60 percent of its TVs come with its own platform NetCast installed, to allow viewers access to the Internet, social networking, online games as well as LG's own TV applications.
At CES, TV makers from Samsung to LG unveiled improved versions of Internet TVs with more bells and whistles such as voice, motion, and facial recognition capabilities to lure consumers.
Research firm IHS iSuppli estimates the global Internet-enabled TV market will grow nearly 60 percent this year to 95 million sets. That far outpaces the TV market overall, which is expected to expand by just 2 percent this year.
Lee said LG aims to ship between 30 and 35 million TVs this year, versus about 30 million a year ago.
Samsung is the world's top TV maker with a 23 percent of the market, followed by LG's 13 percent and Sony's 10 percent and Panasonic Corp's <6752.T> 8.4 percent.
(Editing by Edwin Chan)