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Semiconductors

LG Innotek’s substrate business becomes a cash cow

The camera module maker’s IC substrate business has significantly improved profitability over the last three years

By Jul 19, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

LG Innotek researchers examining the tape substrate inspection equipment (Courtesy of LG Innotek).
LG Innotek researchers examining the tape substrate inspection equipment (Courtesy of LG Innotek).

Korea’s leading camera module maker LG Innotek Co. is projected to post record earnings this year thanks to its fast-growing integrated circuit (IC) substrate business.

According to market analysts on July 18, the consensus estimates for LG Innotek’s operating profit for the second quarter stood at around 100-120 billion won ($87-$104 million). The figure is more than double that of the same period last year at 42.9 billion won ($37.3 million).  

The company’s profit growth is driven by the improved profitability of its substrate segment, whose revenue largely stayed the same from 1.16 trillion won ($1 billion) in 2018 to 1.24 trillion won ($1.08 billion) in 2020, but whose operating profit during the same period grew immensely from 91.7 billion won ($79.7 million) to 253.8 billion won ($220.6 million).

Substrates are key industrial components that are not only used in mobile and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices but also in application processor (AP) chips and high-definition display panels such as OLED. LG Innotek’s substrate business is largely divided into three ranges of products: semiconductor substrates, photomasks and tape substrates.

LG Innotek’s photomask product.
LG Innotek’s photomask product.

A photomask is an opaque plate that allows light to shine through in a defined pattern. They are used for producing semiconductor chips, display panels and printed circuit boards (PCBs).

A tape substrate is a tape-shaped substrate that helps connect display panels to the mainboard. This type of substrate requires high-precision, sub-millimeter technologies, according to LG Innotek.

LG Innotek’s tape substrate.
LG Innotek’s tape substrate.

“The rapid growth of our substrate business is largely driven by the expansion of 5G smartphones and popularity of OLED TVs,” said an LG Innotek official.

LG Innotek added that the company’s next focus will be substrates used in mobile and IoT communications, especially the Radio Frequency-System in Package (RF-SiP) substrates.

The RF-SiP substrate’s role is connecting RF-SiP, a key semiconductor component that serves as a packaging platform for wireless communication and that enables integration of digital ICs, logic ICs and RF ICs, with the main substrate.

The Radio Frequency-System in Package (RF-SiP) substrate by LG Innotek.
The Radio Frequency-System in Package (RF-SiP) substrate by LG Innotek.

LG Innotek has been the market leader since 2018 for semiconductor substrates used in mobile communications. Its market share in the segment last year was 32%.

LG Innotek added that the company last year invested 184.5 billion won ($160.3 million) in semiconductor substrates for mobile and communication industries. 

The Korean securities industry projects that LG Innotek’s operating profit this year will surpass 1 trillion won ($870 million) for the first time on revenue of 10 trillion won ($8.7 billion).

Write to Shin-young Park at nyusos@hankyung.com

Daniel Cho edited this article.

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