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As the largest manufacturer of flat panel glass in the world, China until recently relied heavily on importing TFT LCD substrate - the base layer of glass upon which the 'thin-film' is deposited - from the world’s top four manufacturers: Corning (60%); Asahi Glass (19%); Nippon Electro Glass (15%); and NH Techno Glass (6%).
In the last few years however, this foreign stranglehold on China's substrate supply may have been broken with the entry of local suppliers Ancai Hi-tech Glass and Luobo Group in 2005, and Irico Group in 2007.
China’s LCD market is projected to reach 16 million units by 2010, and will by then account for over 23% of total global volume. Following both this and the global trend, the country's demand for TFT LCD substrate is expected to grow annually at 37% on average over the next three years.
While China's TFT LCD glass substrate business shows great potential, factors such as funding, equipment, technology and patent rights will determine who will dominate the domestic market.
Corning may have a head start over other foreign players in fighting the local threat - it was the first to set up its own Chinese substrate finishing facility, in Beijing in late 2006, and its plant is expected to begin operations in the next few months, ahead of its rivals.
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