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Europeans spend more on TVs, MP3 players, car systems

Western European consumers spent 18% more on consumer electronics including flat-screen televisions, MP3 portable audio devices and car navigation systems in the first six months of 2006 compared with a year earlier, said GfK AG, a market research company. In the full year, Europeans will spend € 44 billion ($57 billion) on consumer electronics, Nuremberg, Germany-based GfK said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. It didn't say how much was spent in 2005. Sales in Europe's biggest economy rose 1.9% in June, more than expected, as World Cup fever gripped the nation and households brought forward purchases to avoid a tax increase. „The sector is benefiting from the fact that consumers are investing more money in expensive and higher-value products,” GfK said. „And as in earlier years, TVs are the strongest growth driver in consumer electronics.” Sales of flat-screen TVs rose 35% in the first half, according to GfK. Purchases of LCD models, as opposed to plasma-screen TVs, more than doubled from a year earlier, it said.

„One of the reasons for this was the football World Cup,” GfK said. „The main reason, however, is because consumers are increasingly turning away from traditional tube TVs and switching to flat-screen LCD or plasma TV sets.” Europeans also are willing to spend more on TVs, GfK said. Buyers on average spent € 676 each for new sets in the first half, 25% more than a year earlier. Kronach, Germany-based Loewe AG, a German television maker partly owned by Sharp Corp., said Aug. 8 it sold 48% more flat-screen TVs in the Q2 than a year earlier. The gain was primarily due to higher demand for TVs that are 32 inches or bigger. Sales of portable audio equipment rose 9% in the H1, driven by demand for MP3 players, GfK said. Consumer probably will buy about 37 million MP3 players this year, it said. Apple Computer Inc., which generates about 39% of total sales with iPod digital music players, said in July it plans to release new MP3 player models before the Christmas holidays to boost sales. The Cupertino, California-based company shipped 8.11 million iPods in the quarter ended July 1, 32% more than a year earlier. In-car electronics sales jumped 45% on the back of strong sales of navigational systems. On-board navigational computers accounted for some 54% of car electronics sold in the first six months, GfK said. (Bloomberg)