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Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. and Hitachi Ltd. jointly said Wednesday they will triple the liquid crystal display panel production capacity at their joint venture in Mobara, Chiba Prefecture.

That combined 80 billion yen investment will boost annual capacity at IPS Alpha Technology Ltd., set up last year with help from Toshiba Corp., to the equivalent of 5 million 32-inch LCD panels, the two said.

The two companies also will build a new factory in Eastern Europe, they said.

The two firms have decided on the LCD capacity boost to fend off competition from rivals, including Sony Corp. and Sharp Corp., which are also driving up production capacity, officials at the two firms said.

But Toshiba will not join the plan partly because it has put priority on developing the SED, a next-generation flat-screen TV, in conjunction with Canon Corp., industry officials said.

SEDs, short for surface-conduction electron-emitter displays, will hit store shelves in fall 2007 or thereafter.

As for the Chiba venture, Matsushita and Hitachi had planned to increase annual LCD panel capacity to 2.5 million units next April, the two firms said. But the schedule has been pulled forward to January, with the hike to 5 million coming during the second half of the year, they said.

Hitachi and Matsushita have developed and manufactured plasma panel TVs to cash in on demand for larger screens while putting emphasis on LCD panel TVs for small and midsize screens.

The two companies may make more plasma TVs in the hope that they will become mainstream products, they said.

Sony revealed a plan in April to build a new LCD factory in South Korea together with Samsung Electronics Co. for a combined 240 billion yen.

Sharp is planning to sink 200 billion yen into raising LCD production capacity as well.

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