Universal Display Unleashes the Charge of the Light Brigade


Call the fire brigade! Universal Display (NAS: PANL) is on fire!

OK, cancel the 911 call. Company headquarters in Ewing, N.J., aren't engulfed in roaring flames. The stock is on fire.

Share prices have leapt 73% in August on the heels of several helpings of good news. A quick 12% jump in after-hours trading comes courtesy of consumer electronics giant Panasonic (NYS: PC) and chemicals manufacturer Idemitsu Kosan, whose joint OLED lighting venture just signed a three-year deal for technology licenses and material supplies from Universal Display. The gains didn't last long; Universal Display moved back to trading around yesterday's close. Still, the continuing deluge of licensing deals is a good omen for the OLED giant.

I'm pretty sure the Japanese duo was watching Korean tech giant Samsung to see how that OLED deal would be structured. Like the Samsung tryst, this lighting contract is divided into prepaid and ongoing components, including intellectual property rights and materials.

Like I said when Samsung penned that multiyear license and materials deal, this was the start of an avalanche of similar deals. OLED technology is currently all about smartphone screens, made chiefly by Samsung and LG Display (NYS: LPL) , with the next step in many an investor's mind being larger tablet and TV displays. Sony (NYS: SNE) has already visited the TV avenue, and LG is going there next year.

This deal underscores the oft-forgotten third leg of the OLED growth story, which is in household and industrial lighting. White OLED panels could pose a real challenge to traditional LED lights in terms of power-sipping efficiency, streamlined and low-cost manufacturing lines, and design versatility.

Traditional light bulb and fluorescent tube makers such as Siemens (NYS: SI) subsidiary Osram and General Electric (NYS: GE) are going to lose business in this paradigm shift, though both are hard at work on new-age solutions of their own. And even LED specialist Cree (NAS: CREE) has reason to chew its proverbial fingernails when Universal Display joins a global powerhouse like Panasonic this early in the game.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorAnders Bylundholds no position in any of the companies discussed here.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Universal Display. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. You can check outAnders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him onTwitterorGoogle+, or peruseour Foolish disclosure policy.

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