Sharp seeks more partners for struggling LCD plant: source

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 09, 2012 10:58 PM
Sharp seeks more partners for struggling LCD plant: source

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sharp Corp, Japan's last major fabricator of liquid crystal displays for televisions, is seeking more partners to buy stakes in its main Sakai plant in a bid to spin off the LCD production subsidiary, a source familiar with the matter said.

Sharp, which in March agreed to issue shares worth 66.9 billion yen ($821.97 million) to Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry in return for an 11 percent shareholding, has asked suppliers Toppan Printing and Dai Nippon Printing to invest in the Sakai facility, the source told Reuters on condition he wasn't identified.

As part of Sharp's tie up with Hon Hai, the Taiwanese company will take a 46.48 percent stake in Japan's most advanced LCD plant. Sony Corp, which holds a 7 percent stake Sakai, said in March it has no plans to raise its holding, ending an earlier tentative agreement to invest more.

Sharp is under pressure as it struggles with a glut in supply of LCDs and weak demand for televisions that has undermined panel prices and left the Sakai plant operating below its break-even capacity. Cutting its stake in the factory, which cost more than $4 billion to build, would insulate the rest of Sharp from the losses.

Overall company losses for the year that ended March 31 may have ballooned to a record net deficit of 390 billion yen ($4.79 billion), the Nikkei business daily reported earlier, up from an estimate in February for a loss of 290 billion yen.

Sharp officials declined to comment on the Nikkei report or confirm it was seeking additional investors.

In the quarter ending December 31, losses from Sakai contributed to a loss of about 180 billion yen in equity at the Osaka-based firm. At the end of the three months, Sharp's net debt-to-equity ratio was 1.03, six times the industry average and the highest among Japan's electronics firms, according to Thomson Reuters data.

After revealing its revised expectation for a record loss, Sharp last month named company veteran Takashi Okuda as president, replacing Mikio Katayama, who became chairman.

Shares of Sharp, which have declined by 17 percent since the start of the year, dipped by 3.3 percent in early trading in Tokyo.

($1 = 81.3900 Japanese yen)

(Reporting by Reiji Murai; Writing by Tim Kelly; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Matt Driskill)