Universal Display (NASDAQ:PANL) is a research company and intellectual property bank that conducts research on and holds patents in phosphorescent LED technologies.
The bear case on them was clearly made by ClearFish Research at the Consumer Electronics Stock Blog a few days ago: They don't make money, and they're probably not going to start turning a real compelling profit for quite some time.
But I am invested, with a small position at least, in PANL ... so as you might guess, I find the bullish case more compelling. As I wrote on PANL a while back, I like that they use research grants to subsidize their R&D to some extent, and I like that they seem to be in the lead in developing PHOLED technology.
Competitors like Cambridge Display (NASDAQ:OLED) are using different technologies or pointing their research in different directions and seem to me to be a bit behind, and PANL continues to rack up new incremental gains in the capability of their PHOLEDs and, slowly, gains in their development of licensing partners for possible manufacture of PHOLED-based products.
The stock is pretty wild. When I bought in last year, the hope was that Samsung's licensing deal with PANL would grow and lead to some significant product development sooner rather than later. It hasn't happened yet, nor have we heard much in the way of news about specific new products that might use this technology (Samsung and its affiliates generally hedge their bets -- I think they've licensed other bleeding edge display technologies as well).
Lately we've been hearing about their lab advances -- stronger blue PHOLEDs for a nearly complete spectrum, and about new small research contracts with the US government, most recently for lighting using PHOLEDs.
But Thursday, some more news ... and a typical jump up on the news. PANL cagily announced that an unnamed company has licensed their technology for an active matrix PHOLED for the first time to a "leading display manufacturer."
Of course, that doesn't mean much ... what we're really waiting for is announcement of a manufacturing deal, not just an exploratory license. PANL does not itself make anything, though it contracts with a manufacturer to supply their patented materials for use by their licensees.
But still, this confirms to some degree that active matrix displays are possible with PANL's PHOLED technology, not just the simpler passive matrices, and that can only be good -- opening up another potential market for their patents.
I'm treating my PANL investment as a long term option on what I believe to be a compelling technology, and it's nice to see some more of their work validated today. If they keep on signing contracts for lighting and display research work and building up relationships with potential manufacturers, we're still on the right track and I'm happy to be patient.
And I really want one of those windows that turns into a TV screen on command. And one of those flexible PDAs with a screen that rolls out of a tiny tube would be handy too, please.
They might lose it all, but they also might be the holder of the patents that enable the next revolution in display technology -- I guess you can tell what I'm guessing, even though I wouldn't bet more than I can afford to lose on this one.
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