* China, other emerging markets driving demand - Sharp
* Comments follow startup of Sharp's flagship LCD plant
* Shares close up 0.2 pct, in line with broader market (Adds China demand, background)
SAKAI, Japan, Oct 16 The current industry shortage of LCD panels could continue through the middle of next year, the head of a unit at Japan's Sharp Corp (6753.T) said, in a potential move to shore up investor confidence in panel makers.
"Supplies have yet to catch up with demand at the moment and I expect things to remain that way until around the middle of next year," Hiroshi Saji, the president of Sharp Display Products Corp, told reporters on Friday.
Supplies have been tight due to brisk demand in emerging markets including China, he said.
Research firm DisplaySearch last month edged up its global LCD TV shipment forecast for 2009 by 2.4 percent to 130 million units, citing strong demand in key markets such as China and North America.
Saji was speaking after a ceremony marking the first panel shipment from Sharp's new LCD plant.
Sharp, the world's fourth-largest LCD TV maker behind Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS), Sony Corp (6758.T) and LG Electronics Inc (066570.KS), earlier this month started production at its cutting-edge LCD panel factory in Sakai, western Japan.
The 430 billion yen ($4.7 billion) plant is capable of processing so-called 10th generation glass substrates, which are bigger than earlier generation substrates and help cut per panel production costs.
Sharp Display Products is now wholly owned by Sharp, but Sony plans to spend about 68 billion yen for a one-third stake in it to jointly operate the Sakai plant.
Following Saji's comments, shares in Sharp closed up 0.2 percent at 1,036 yen, in line with the Nikkei average .N225. (Reporting by Kentaro Hamada; Writing by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)