BERLIN, Sept 2 (Reuters) - TV makers put on a brave face at IFA, Europe's biggest consumer electronics show in Berlin, reassuring themselves that new products and brisk holiday business would compensate a weak first six months of the year.
"The TV market need not shrink, it all depends on how strongly prices will fall," Rainer Hecker, chairman of the German consumer electronics association (gfu) said.
Germany's biggest TV manufacturer Loewe , known for its high-end sets, suffered a steep earnings drop in the first half of 2011 but Chief Executive Oliver Seidl said he was confident about the remainder of the year.
"We all, the whole industry, expect that the second half of the year will improve with a normal seasonality. So that should compensate at least a part of the losses from the first half," Seidl said.
According to market research firm GfK, sales in the western European TV market slipped 14 percent in the first six months of the year compared with 2009, which like this year was not boosted by a major sports event such as the 2010 World Cup.
Hecker conceded that it was currently difficult to work profitably in the TV market as many suppliers had planned on much higher demand, which resulted in a fierce price war, just as the debt crisis in Europe led to uncertainty among consumers.
"The TV business is very tough ... no one is making money at the moment as you know," Panasonic's head of Europe Laurent Abadie said.
"In the U.S. and Europe, the TV market is reaching a plateau or is slightly negative," he said.
Abadie added that through pushing 3D, large-screen TVs and new integrated application the company could "at least sustain demand for the value-added part of the market".
That may not be what consumers are looking for, according to a study on TV and video trends among consumers published by Ericsson Consumer Lab.
"In terms of what consumers want most from their TVs, good quality remains the top factor and is more important than, for example, the availability of 3D TV and access to applications," the report said.
Sluggish demand for TVs has forced Sony Corp to cut its exposure in the TV panel business with Samsung and Sharp , while Dutch electronics group Philips is hiving off its loss-making TV business.
Sharp said at IFA that manufacturers and distributors had overestimated demand around the World Cup last year, stocking up on 30 and 40 inch TVs, flooding the market while prices eroded.
The average price for a LCD TV dropped 7 percent to 459 euros ($654) in the first half of 2011 compared with 2010, the GfK said.
Nevertheless, Hiroshi Sasaoka, head of Sharp Europe, said Sharp's business was quite stable and not much affected by economic circumstances.
By comparison, larger peer LG said it had to delay the roll-out of a new product line due to overcapacity.
"In Europe there was a lot of inventory build-up in the channels so we could not introduce our new line-up," Kyoung Hoon Byun, LG's head of overseas sales & marketing division, said.
There had been signs of an improvement in August however, he said.
TV shipments in North America are expected to grow about 2 percent this year after 4 percent growth in 2010, while Western European TV shipments will fall about 1.5 percent, market research firm DisplaySearch said in July. ($1 = 0.702 Euros) (Additional reporting by Nadine Schimroszik and Nicola Leske; Writing by Nicola Leske)