Samsung Display is acquiring US-based OLED microdisplay developer eMagin, for $218 million in cash. The purchase price represents a premium of approximately 10% to eMagin’s closing stock price n May 16, 2023.
In 2022, Samsung Display confirmed it is developing OLED microdisplays, and the company admitted it is still at an early stage of development. Samsung's plan is to start mass production by 2024 or 2025. In October 2022 we reported that SDC is interesting in eMagin's technology and indeed now this news confirms the fact. It seems as if SDC's first generation panels will use a color-filter design, but Samsung's main interest in eMagin is likely its direct-emission technology, or dPd, which will likely be adopted in later generation panels.
Samsung Display main goal is to sell OLED microdisplays to leading AR/VR HMD makers - mainly Apple (which is said to be working with Sony 4K OLED microdisplays in its first-gen HMD). It won't be a surprise if a future Apple HMD will indeed be based on eMagin's direct-emission OLED microdisplays.
eMagin recently announced that it developed (and demonstrated) a 15,000 nits WUXGA (1920x1200) full-color OLED microdisplay, setting a new world record (surpassing eMagin's own 10,000 nits record from 2021). The company's unique direct-emission OLED microdisplay technology enables it to achieve much higher brightness compared to color-filter based displays.
Over the years, eMagin said that it is working with several Tier-1 consumer electronics companies. Reports pointed to Facebook (Meta), Apple, Valve- and indeed Samsung Display as we reported October 2022.
eMagin's main business has always been the military sector. In 2020 the US DoD awarded eMagin with $33.6 million, to enhance and increase its production capabilities in the US. It will be interesting to see how the sale to Samsung Display will play out. eMagin says it will keep its US-based operations, and in addition South Korea is a close ally to the US - but still this is likely a disruption of eMagin's original plans.
The deal will actually take form of a merger with SDC. As eMagin is a public company, each eMagin shareholder will receive $2.08 in cash. This announcement was a surprise to many shareholders that have held to their stocks for many years, hoping the company's unique technology will translate into a profitable business. It will be interesting to see how SDC will use eMagin's microdisplay technology and IP, and the dPd technology in particular.
Disclosure: the author hold shares in eMagin