Ever since Universal Display (NASDAQ:OLED) signed a long-term contract with Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF), investors have been hungry for more deals in a similar vein. Three and a half years later, Universal Display has finally inked an agreement with LG Display (NYSE:LPL). Universal Display shares jumped as much as 25% higher the next day.
Is the LG Display contract a game-changer like the Samsung deal, or a completely different animal?
As a longtime Universal Display shareholder, I wish I could gush rainbows and butterflies over the company's second South Korean supply and patent license contract. But I just don't have enough information to get truly excited yet.
When the Samsung deal was announced, Universal Display immediately shared important details about its financial structure. It was a two-layered deal with license royalties rising steadily across the contract's six-and-a-half year term, with payments due every other quarter. This base was augmented by a materials supply section, where Samsung promised to buy certain amounts of OLED materials directly from Universal Display. The manufacturing is done by chemicals giant PPG Industries (NYSE:PPG), but PPG has an exclusive agreement with Universal Display that prevents it from selling these licensed materials directly to gadget builders like Samsung or LG.
So that was always a fairly transparent contract, and Universal Display has been diligent about keeping investors up to date with upcoming payments from Samsung. Quarterly earnings reports and conference calls have been packed with important contract information in recent years.
However, the LG announcement was very light on financial detail.
It's a seven-year deal, expiring in 2022. We also know that Universal Display is selling LG non-exclusive access to certain OLED patents, and that the companies have a materials supply agreement in place, too. LG will also pay straight-up royalties on some patents, which is not something Samsung is doing under its biannual license fee structure.
Sounds a lot like the Samsung version, except for the royalty provision. But I have no idea how much OLED material LG has promised to buy in 2015, or how large the license and royalty payments might be. In short, the dollars are moving behind the scenes so far.
We might get more detail on this when Universal Display reports fourth-quarter earnings, but we'll all have to wait until the end of February for that.
In the meantime, you'll have to settle for some choice quotes about what this deal might mean for LG and Universal Display.
The OLED technologist's CEO, Steven Abramson, waxed poetic about LG's commitment to big-screen OLED TV sets. At the recent CES trade show, LG presented a "showcase of new 4K models ranging from 55, 65, and 77 [inches] in flexible, curved and flat form factors," Abramson said, implying that these models might fuel a boom for Universal Display's material sales and royalties.
"This is a win-win partnership for both companies," said LG Display's OLED chief, San Deog Yo. "We expect this strategic alliance with Universal Display will bring synergies in accelerating the growth of OLED technology."
So there you have it. LG just committed to a future full of OLED TV sets, of the 4K video variety and beyond, and Universal Display couldn't be happier about it.
But that's really all we know right now. Hold your horses and keep an eye on Universal Display's earnings reports over the next few quarters, because that's how you'll find out exactly how much the LG Display agreement is helping.