Matsushita Electric Ind. (NYSE: MC), owner of the Panasonic brand, maintained its leadership position in Plasma Display Panel production for the fourth quarter of 2006, while other manufacturers lost share according to new research.

Japan-based Matsushita accounted for 37.2 percent of all PDP's shipped in the fourth quarter of 2006, research firm iSuppli said on Wednesday. The figure puts it well ahead of the runners-up, LG Electronics, and Samsung, who gathered 24.2 and 21.1 percent market share respectively.

The Korean players not only have lost market share, but they also suffered a slowdown in their shipments in the fourth quarter due to intense competition from LCDs, said Riddhi Patel, principal analyst for television systems at iSuppli. This competitive pressure will only intensify as consumer acceptance of LCD-TVs increases.

The firm believes PDP shipments to continue to rise, hitting 22.7 million units by 2011, however prices are expected to fall from a number of factors.

Increased competition that is forcing panel makers to reduce their prices, even in a tight supply situation, so that the brands can compete effectively with other display technologies, like LCDs. The cost of required parts, such as electronics and glass continues to decline as well, and manufacturing continues to become more efficient.

Because of a precipitous decline in Average Selling Prices (ASPs), which are falling at a 13 percent CAGR, there will be only a slight increase in PDP market revenue during the next five years, the firm stated.

Shares of Matsushita rose 43 cents, or 2.12 percent, to $20.71 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.