The demand for high-tech products in general and for innovative display solutions in particular has seen high global growth in recent years. This trend is not expected to weaken in the coming years. Instead, we assume that increasing demand for these types of consumer goods will come from a growing middle class in emerging markets. Therefore Performance Materials will defend its position as the market and technology leader for liquid crystals and further expand it as far as possible.
Since the typical life cycle of LC mixtures is less than three years, innovation will remain the key success factor. The liquid crystals pipeline of Performance Materials is well-stocked with new technologies such as self-aligned vertical alignment (SA-VA), advanced fringe field switching (FFS), as well as projects with applications beyond displays.
Our OLED business, which is part of the Advanced Technologies business unit, posted strong, above-average growth in 2014. Performance Materials wants to further position itself in the OLED market and play a leading role in this market segment in the medium to long term. Lower production costs for OLED displays are a precondition for this. External partnerships will also be used in the future to ensure the required exchange of technology and expertise.
The acquisition of AZ Electronic Materials has sustainably strengthened the portfolio and the market position of Performance Materials. All integration measures were successfully implemented in 2014, adding a further premium business to the existing profitable businesses. AZ is a manufacturer of ultrapure, innovative specialty chemicals and materials for use in integrated circuits (semiconductors) and equipment, in flat-panel displays, and for photolithographic printing. Both Performance Materials and AZ have very similar and attractive business models based on innovation, customer proximity, high market share and profitability in the growth areas of displays, semiconductors, organic electronics, and lighting.
Within its Pigments & Functional Materials business unit, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, continues to focus on high-quality brands that add value for customers as well as on market segments with growth potential. These include effect pigments, e.g. for automotive coatings, and functional materials, e.g. for laser marking.