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Panasonic sees steady demand for plasma

BERLIN (Reuters) - Panasonic expects demand for large plasma televisions to slide in the next two years but to hold steady after that at about 30 percent of the total market for large, flat-screen TVs, an executive said on Thursday.

Models pose for pictures in front of Panasonic's new 1080p resolution Viera 42-inch plasma television in Tokyo April 10, 2007. Panasonic expects demand for large plasma televisions to slide in the next two years but to hold steady after that at about 30 percent of the total market for large, flat-screen TVs, an executive said on Thursday. REUTERS/Kiyoshi Ota

"Plasma can keep 30 percent of the market in TVs of 37 inches and above," said Hiro Wada, who is in charge of product planning for visual products and display devices at Panasonic, a brand name of Matsushita 6752.T.

He said plasma currently had 40 percent of that market.

Matsushita is the world’s biggest maker of plasma TVs, which are losing ground to LCD (liquid crystal display) models as LCD technology for larger screens improves. It also makes LCD TVs in sizes up to 37 inches.

Fans say plasma gives better picture reproduction because it is self-illuminating, unlike LCD, which has to be backlit. But plasma's share of the flat-screen market has slid and rivals Sony 6758.T and Sharp 6753.T make only LCD TVs.

Matsushita is investing $2.3 billion to help double its plasma capacity in the next two years.

“In the plasma market, we want to stay number one,” Wada said in an interview at IFA, Europe’s biggest consumer electronics trade fair, which is being held in Berlin.

He said plasma technology’s relative youth at only 10 years old compared with about 30 years for LCD meant plasma still had plenty of room to improve.

And he predicted that half of all flat-panel demand would be for TVs with diagonals above 30 inches by 2010.

He said he expected prices for TVs of 37 inches and above to fall by about 30 percent this year while prices for smaller TVs would fall by 10-15 percent.

Wada added that Matsushita aimed to sell about 2 million TVs this year in the United States, where it makes about 30 percent of its sales.

Asked whether he was worried that a U.S. consumer credit crunch could harm Matsushita’s Christmas business there, he said: “We are a little bit concerned.” He declined to elaborate.

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