Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) is expanding its production of plasma display panels (PDPs) faster than originally planned to keep pace with strong demand for PDP flat-panel televisions, a company executive said yesterday.

The company says its expansion is part of Panasonic's aim to become the world's largest maker of PDPs by mid-2006.

The company's PDP subsidiary, Matsushita Plasma Display Panel, has installed new production lines at its Ibaraki plant, raising its production capacity to 100,000 panels per month.

When the factory opened in April it had a production capacity of 40,000 panels per month. Panasonic's original plan had been to expand this to 80,000 panels per month by April 2005.

One of the main factors behind the faster- and larger-than-planned increase is the growing popularity of PDP-based flat-screen televisions. Demand for the sets is strong in Japan, the US and Europe, said the company.

In the first 10 months of this year, shipments of PDP televisions in Japan totaled 245,000 units, up 46 percent from the same period in 2003, according to the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Assocation. Panasonic estimates its share of the Japanese market rose from 26 percent in late September to 40 percent at the beginning of December. Its share in the US rose from 24 percent to 28 percent over the same period, it said.

"Bearing in mind that we are quadrupling production over the next three to four years, it shows how we perceive the market," said a Panasonic spokesperson. "Even after the year-end sales period we see demand without end."