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LCD partners turn rivals in bid for pole position.

Samsung raises the stakes as it takes Sony to task in the regional LCD TV market

Samsung Electronics has increased the pressure on OEM partner Sony in the bid for top spot in the Middle East LCD TV market.

Samsung launched its new R7 ‘Bordeaux’ LCD-HDTV range last month, amid claims it would be the number one LCD TV vendor in the region before the end of 2006.

Samsung, one of the largest flat panel display manufacturers in the world, produces panels featured in Sony’s Bravia range of LCD TVs.

The company claims that the panels used in its Bordeaux range eclipse these panels in every way.

“All the LCD panels that Sony is using are designed and manufactured by Samsung,” Kris Lee, general manager of Samsung’s consumer electronics division in the UAE, told ECN.

“The panel we use in the Bordeaux models is designed specifically for our use. If you compare the contrast ratio or viewing angle to Sony Bravia, or any other brand, you will find it remarkably improved. I am confident that we will snare the number one position in the Middle East LCD market in 2006,” he claimed.

Lee said Samsung would pursue an aggressive marketing campaign supporting the launch of the Bordeaux range, which would include newspaper and outdoor advertisements as well as a series of in-store promotions in key retail outlets.

“Bordeaux launched in the US in February and Europe in March. We are now number one in terms of LCD sales in both these markets,” Lee claimed. “We are offering big incentives to our resellers and merchandisers to promote the range in the Middle East, in addition to protecting channel margins.

“We exert greater control than most vendors when it comes to wholesale prices thanks mainly to our manufacturing capability. We want to lead the market so we have set our prices a little lower than Sony with its Bravia range.”

Samsung Gulf senior manager, sales and marketing, audiovisual division, Ashraf Sajid claimed the company’s LCD TV range was one of the most comprehensive on the market. “This provides us with the flexibility to target every level of the market in conjunction with a variety of retail partners,” he said.

Samsung expects to ship around seven million LCD TVs worldwide in 2006, including 300,000 units in the Middle East.

Lee estimated that 70,000 units would be sold in the GCC, excluding Saudi Arabia, with the UAE accounting for around half this figure. He predicted that Qatar would also generate strong demand due to the increased purchasing power of local consumers and the fact that the country will host one of the world’s biggest televised sporting events, the 2006 Asian Games, in December.

Sony’s representative in Saudi Arabia, Takuzo Fujimoto, dismissed Samsung’s targets as unrealistic, claiming that the company did not have the market presence in the Middle East to achieve its goal.

“If you talk about the entire flat panel television market including projection and plasma units then maybe it is possible that Samsung will sell the most units in the Middle East in 2006,” he said. “However, if you talk about LCD TVs alone, then Sony is the number one vendor and it will remain number one.

“We don’t plan to change our pricing strategy but we will be stepping up our promotions campaign matching the demand generated by the FIFA World Cup,” he added.

Market research firm Gfk Marketing Services confirmed to ECN that Samsung currently holds the number one spot in terms of LCD TV sales in the Middle East market.

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