JAPAN: Hitachi/Sony/Toshiba display deal agreed, new company to buy Panasonic LCD plant

The long-rumoured link-up between the small- to medium-size LCD display businesses of Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba has been finalised.

The new company, Japan Display, will start operations early next year, and has signed an agreement to buy Panasonic's Mobara LCD plant near Tokyo and convert it to making smaller display panels for use in smartphones and tablets.

That's another blow for 'made in Japan' television manufacturing: Mobara currently makes some 600,000 LCD TV panels a month, and the sale to Japan Display is seen as a further sign that Panasonic is getting out of the highly competitive small to midrange TV panel business.

Its remaining Japanese LCD panel plant, at Himeji, will concentrate on tablet and smartphone panels, as well as screens for larger TV sizes.

The Japan Display deal will see the new company run by the Innovation Corporation of Japan, which will hold a 70% stake in the business, while Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba will each hold just 10%. It will be headed by Shuichi Otsuka, until recently Chief Operating Officer of Japanese semiconductor company Elpida Memory, and a past employee of Texas Instruments Japan and Sony.

Otsuka says his ambition is 'to develop Japan Display into a world leader in small- and medium-sized displays.'

No figure has been given for the purchase of the Panasonic factory, which is expected to be finalised in the coming months, but Japanese press reports suggest a figure of Y20-30bn (£165m-£250m) for the acquisition, and a further investment of Y100bn (£830m) to convert it from making TV panels to the much more profitable smartphone and tablet displays.

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.