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Korean IT sector has a bumper 1999

Chips and screens in big demand

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Korea's chip and TFT-LCD sectors had a boom year in 1999, serving as a prop for the country's economy. Both markets were forecast to stay strong for the next few years due to continuing demand for PC and digital electronic devices, the Korea Herald reported. Analysts said worldwide sales for semiconductors were this year expected to hit $145.2 billion, a 16 per cent hike on last year's $125 billion. This was the fist year of double-digit growth in the industry for four years, helping to pull the nation out of its current economic crisis. The increase helped boost Korean chipmakers' business, especially the bigger players such as Hyundai and Samsung. Chip manufacturers, which had been suffering due to a three-year slump in chip prices, saw profits pick up in June. Surging worldwide demand for DRAM saw prices shoot up from $4 in the first quarter, nudging $20 in September after the Taiwanese earthquake. The price rebound followed healthy growth in demand for PCs and the Web. Many vendors failed to anticipate the surge, resulting in the current situation where demand is outstripping supply. Korean manufacturers were said to have been ramping up production. Hyundai is expected to ship 509 million units by the end of 1999, with a market share of 23.5 per cent, according to IDC. Next is Micron Technology, with 17.6 per cent share, and then Samsung with 16.8 per cent. Samsung is expected to record the highest sales growth rate in the industry, with a 35 per cent increase taking revenue to $5.8 billion. The worldwide TFT-LCD market also showed huge growth, and is expected to reach $12 billion in 1999, a jump of 50 per cent on last year. Sales will grow to $14.3 billion next year and $25 billion in 2003, boosted by the frenzy for handheld digital devices and higher quality monitors. For Korea, the combined sales of its top three LCD makers – Samsung, Hyundai and LG Phillips LCD – are expected to top $4 billion in 1999, a 100 per cent rise on last year. And their sales are expected to grow 35 per cent to reach $6 billion next year. ®

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