Sharp's Mikio Katayama
Companies to form optical disc joint venture, while Sharp is set to outsource production of TV screens

Pioneer, which recently pulled the plugs on its TV business, signalling the end of the Kuro TV line, is now joining forces with Sharp to form a joint venture in optical disc technology. The two companies previously worked together on Pioneer's Europe-only LCD TVs, while Pioneer is supplying sound systems for Sharp's TVs.

It's thought the co-operation, expected to result in the formation of a new company, will start operations in October. A joint statement says that its goal is "to make more effective use of the management resources of the two companies in the optical disk business field, and to capture a leadership position in this area, particularly in the Blu-ray Disc market where significant growth is expected in the future."Sharp to export LCD productionAnd in a parallel move, Sharp has announced its intention to abandon its policy of only making LCD display panels in Japan. Although the company is set to open its new LCD panel plant in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, in October this year, company president Mikio Katayama (pictured) announced yesterday in Osaka that the company will in future produce LCDs overseas jointly with major local makers.

However, it won't be looking to take a majority stake in its foreign manufacturing partners.

That's a big change for the company, which has previously said it wanted to keep LCD development and manufacturing in Japan, to ensure quality control. In fact, it tried to keep manufacturing as close as possible to its Osaka head office, in order to foster close co-operation between R&D and production.

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It says that it wants to focus on increasing licensing and other revenues from its technology, which it hopes will replace the income from sales of LCDs as its main source or revenue.

Worldwide manufacturing basesIt's thought Sharp will build a network of manufacturing bases around the world, by co-operating with local companies. And the policy will also extend to its solar cell business, which is Sharp's other major earner - it's already in talks with a major power company in Italy about local manufacturing of cells.

Sharp was the first company in the world to mass-produce LCD panels, but analysts fear that this move will impact on its revenue, as well creating the risk of 'technology leakage', as overseas companies learn more about its technology.