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Foxconn Buys into Sharp, Likely Thinking Apple

They’ll get $1.6 billion worth of new Sharp shares

Apple's contract manufacturer Foxconn and its Taiwanese avatar the Hon Hai Group are buying 9.9% of struggling Osaka-based electronics conglomerate Sharp.

They'll get $1.6 billion worth of new Sharp shares. It's the biggest investment a Taiwan company has ever made in a Japanese company and Hon Hai will be Sharp's largest stockholder. It's a big comeuppance for Japanese industry.

Sharp expects to lose $3.49 billion this fiscal year, which ends March 31.

Hon Hai will also take half of Sharp's 92.96% position in its losing LCD panel unit. At least until September Sony owns the rest but won't put any more money in it. The failure of the four-year-old Sharp-Sony alliance is said to be the reason Sharp turned to Hon Hai, whose LCD operation is also losing money. Sharp's IGZO screen technologies and production facility are leading-edge.

About $800 million in cash is supposed to go into producing smaller LCD panels for mobile devices instead of for TVs. Sharp sunk $12 billion into big (as in 60-inch) TV screen production amid faltering demand and Korean competition, leaving it with way too much inventory and forcing it to temporarily shut down.

In announcing the deal Sharp said, "The market surrounding electronics industry is becoming severe, with rapid price decline due to the development of digital technology and increasing competition in a global market. We believe timely action is necessary to tackle these changes in the market."

Sharp will start shipping panels to Hon Hai later this year, evidently hoping to sell them to Apple which currently buys its supplies from Samsung and LG. Foxconn could take half of what Sharp makes and is assumed to have designs on the speculative Apple iTV. To complicate things Sharp could also compete against the Apple TV.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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