LG Display Q4 profit tumbles to lowest in nearly four years as panel demand weakens

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's LG Display Co Ltd 034220.KS said its fourth-quarter operating profit slid 90 percent from a year earlier, missing market expectations, as weak demand for consumer electronics weighed on panel prices.

The world’s top liquid crystal display maker posted an October-December profit of 61 billion won ($50.6 million), its weakest result since the first quarter of 2012. The figure was also below the 110 billion won forecast derived from a survey of 24 analysts by Thomson Reuters StarMine SmartEstimate.

LG Display offered no reason for its quarterly profit decline, but several analysts had recently lowered estimates for the firm as weak global economic growth undercut demand for devices such as smartphones, TVs and personal computers.

Several market researchers say data pointed to a decline in panel prices for key products during the October-December period.

LG Display Chief Executive Han Sang-beom warned earlier this month that the global display supply will outweigh demand by 12 to 13 percent this year and that the firm faces a difficult environment in the January-March quarter.

Analysts expect global smartphone shipments growth to slow further in 2016 while researcher IHS says global TV shipments will remain flat.

Media reports say Apple Inc AAPL.O, a key client for LG Display, has cut orders for the iPhone 6S and 6S plus for the current quarter.

Lower production not only hurts sales of direct suppliers but will weigh on the overall prices of components such as memory chips and screens during January-March, which is already a traditionally weak quarter.

LG Display separately said on Tuesday it will invest 460 billion won to boost production of large organic light-emitting diode panels by converting some of its existing liquid crystal display production capacity.

Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Miral Fahmy