Strong demand for slim, big-screen televisions helped in part by this month's World Cup should lead the global flat-panel TV market to greater than anticipated growth this year, a Samsung executive said yesterday.

"Sales are going very well," said David Steel, vice-president of marketing for Samsung's digital media business, in an interview at the company's headquarters in Suwon, south of Seoul. "The market for flat-panel TV looks like it's up 100 percent over last year.

"In terms of plasma [display panel TVs] we see about nine to 10 million units this year – that's up from five million last year. And for LCD this year we could get close to 40 million LCD TVs, up from 20 million last year. We originally thought 30 to 35 million, but with the strong demand 40 million is possible," he said.

The world's biggest electronics companies are locked in a tough battle for market share in the flat-panel TV market. Leading the pack are four Asian vendors: Samsung, Sharp, Sony and Panasonic.

In the first four months of this year Samsung took a 12.7 percent share of the flat-panel TV market by unit sales, which gives it the number-two spot, according to NPD Techworld figures quoted by Steel. That places the company just behind Sony, which had a 12.9 percent share, and just ahead of Sharp and Panasonic in the year-to-date rankings.

The company's series 51 and 52 LCD TVs launched in April have been popular with consumers, said Steel. The sets, whose shape is inspired by a wine glass, are helping Samsung give Sony a run for its money. In the past couple of weeks Samsung advanced to the number-one position in the US market, according to Steel.

"Of course, things could change, but we think now we are really beginning to see the performance of our new models," he said. "So it's a good sign for the US."

For the rest of the year, Samsung plans to launch several LCD televisions. They include a 19in version of the strong-selling, wine-glass-style TV due in the US market in August. A 40in LCD TV with LED backlight will hit Europe by September and the US next year. Samsung's 57in LCD TV, which is already available in the US, will be launched in Europe in August.

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