Japan Display Inc's logo is pictured at its headquarters in Tokyo. Photo: REUTERS file
tech

Chinese group to get control of Japan Display after $2.1 billion bailout

21 Comments
By Makiko Yamazaki

A Chinese-Taiwanese group will take control of Apple Inc supplier Japan Display after pumping in funds as part of a 232 billion yen ($2.1 billion) bailout plan for the troubled display panel maker.

The rescue comes after previous, publicly funded bailouts failed to help the company cut its dependence on Apple, whose slowing iPhone sales have badly hit Japan Display.

The deal will make the buyers Japan Display’s biggest shareholders - with a 49.8 percent stake - replacing the Japanese government-backed INCJ fund and effectively ending the government’s efforts to keep the last remaining domestic display maker out of foreign hands.

The buyer group, which includes Taiwanese flat screen maker TPK Holding and Chinese investment firm Harvest Group, will inject up to 80 billion yen into Japan Display by buying shares and bonds.

INCJ will also join the bailout by accepting a debt-to-preferred equity swap totaling 75 billion yen and extending senior loans worth 77 billion yen. After the deal its stake will fall to 12.7 percent from 25.3 percent.

The deal could potentially be subject to a U.S. national security review at a time when Washington is stepping up its scrutiny on Chinese investment in the United States.

Japan Display has a subsidiary in San Jose, a U.S. business that could give the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) jurisdiction over the deal.

Displays may not necessarily be critical technologies that are export controlled, but some of Japan Display’s technologies such as fingerprint sensors could raise a national security concern, said Nancy Fischer and Matthew Rabinowitz, partner and senior associate, respectively, at U.S.-based law firm Pillsbury.

Minoru Kikuoka, Japan Display’s finance division head, told reporters at a briefing that the company’s legal advisors have said a CFIUS filing would not be necessary. CFIUS, however, retains indefinite jurisdiction to request a filing and review the transaction, even after it closes.

The bailout comes as sales of new iPhone models - many of which use newer organic light-emitting displays (OLED) - have left Japan Display’s new factory that makes liquid crystal display (LCD) panels running at half capacity.

Japan Display expects to post its fifth straight year of net losses in the year ending this month, as disappointing sales of Apple’s iPhone XR, the only model with an LCD screen, dashed hopes for a turnaround.

The Apple business accounted for more than half of Japan Display’s revenue over the last four years.

Kikuoka said at the briefing, without naming Apple, that Japan Display still owes its client about 100 billion yen. The U.S. tech giant fronted most of the $1.5 billion construction costs for a new LCD factory three years ago.

“We discussed with our client, including that (repayment) issue as well, before we reached the agreement,” Kikuoka said.

Under the latest deal, Japan Display and Harvest Tech, part of the buyout group, are planning to jointly produce OLED panels, used in top-end iPhones, Japan Display said.

Reuters reported earlier this month that Japan Display will begin supplying OLED screens for the Apple Watch later this year.

Japan Display was formed in 2012 by combining the LCD businesses of Hitachi Ltd, Toshiba Corp and Sony Corp in a deal brokered by the government.

It went public in March 2014 and was worth more than 400 billion yen then. It is now worth 67 billion yen.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
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They didn't see that coming... yeaaaaahhhhhh (puts on sunglasses)

1 ( +5 / -4 )

The deal could potentially be subject to a U.S. national security review at a time when Washington is stepping up its scrutiny on Chinese investment in the United States.

The U.S. can't both hurt Japanese economy with trade war and stuff, AND hope that Chinese won't buy Japanese high tech corporations. You can't have both the things. If you hurt Japan, you help China, since Chinese have a lot of cash and they can buy whatever they want, way more then the Americans.

But this is what Trump administration is failing to understand. The more he hurt his supposed "allies", the more he helps his biggest rival China. Oh, well.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

It's interesting to see China and Taiwan partnering in this venture. Totally contradictory to China's aggressive political position against Taiwan. I guess it's true that it's best to keep your enemy close to you.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

It's interesting to see China and Taiwan partnering in this venture. Totally contradictory to China's aggressive political position against Taiwan. 

China and Taiwan do a lot of business with each other. As do many countries that are political opponents. Business and politics are like cousins, not brothers.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Like nobody saw that coming!

lol

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Their own fault for not investing in OLED.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Might as well change the company name to China Display, too.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

First Sharp, now this...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What I don't understand, is why Apple themselves didn't buy them out, why a Chinese company?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The bailout comes as sales of new iPhone models - many of which use newer organic light-emitting displays (OLED) - have left Japan Display’s new factory that makes liquid crystal display (LCD) panels running at half capacity.

I remember reading somewhere, citing a Japanese guy involved in technology R&D, that Japan can not rely anymore on that approach of copy and improve, that it will be necessary to offer something new instead of improving existing technology. For this company, it went that way.

In 2009, Philips became the first company to manufacture an OLED lighting panel called Lumiblade. Philips describes the potential of their Lumiblade as "...thin (less than 2 mm thick) and flat, and with little heat dissipation, Lumiblade can be embedded into most materials with ease... gives designers almost limitless scope to mold and meld Lumiblade into everyday objects, scenes and surfaces, from chairs and clothing to walls, windows and tabletops."

In 2013, Philips and BASF are combining efforts to invent a lighted transparent car roof. The car roof will be solar powered and will turn transparent when switched off. That's just one of the many developments occurring with this cutting-edge technology.

https://www.thoughtco.com/who-invented-oled-technology-1992208

OLED has been practical since 1987, and in the market since 2009. The new Japan Display's factory was built around 2016. They do need to start looking ahead, otherwise competitors will just leave them behind.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@rkome76: China wouldn't buy a Company that is "left behind", actually they bought a Company that can give them a competitive advantage thanks to a good know how.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Alex80Today  09:03 pm JST

@rkome76: China wouldn't buy a Company that is "left behind", actually they bought a Company that can give them a competitive advantage thanks to a good know how.

It seems their good know how didn't prevent this

Japan Display expects to post its fifth straight year of net losses in the year ending this month

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@rkom76: It looks to me they needed to expand their clients, relying mainly on Apple was a mistake. It has nothing to do with technology.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Probably not even worth half that. Crap technology and bloated work force.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Alex80Apr. 13  10:09 pm JST

@rkom76: It looks to me they needed to expand their clients, relying mainly on Apple was a mistake. It has nothing to do with technology.

Of course I agree. In my first post I wrote

OLED has been practical since 1987, and in the market since 2009. The new Japan Display's factory was built around 2016. They do need to start looking ahead, otherwise competitors will just leave them behind.

which has to do with this:

Previous rumors have suggested Apple was willing to pay as much as $1.7 billion for the new plant. Foxconn has also invested heavily in Apple displays by recently spending $2.6 billion on an OLED factory for Apple Watch and iPhone displays. Apple has not been officially announced as Japan Display’s partner, but sources say Apple will invest an unspecified amount in the plant to help the Japanese screen maker become it’s number one supplier.

https://www.cultofmac.com/314530/japan-display-building-1-4-billion-plant-just-apple/

And that's from 2015. The interesting part is that, while JD was investing in a LCD plant, Foxconn was investing in an OLED plant. Having your competitor building a new plant that will supply screens for all models of iphones, while you are building a plant that will make screens for only one model means he is looking ahead and you will be left behind.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@gogogo

Their own fault for not investing in OLED.

Apple doesn't leave vendors enough profit to invest in new technology.

@kenji Fujimori

What I don't understand, is why Apple themselves didn't buy them out

Apple isn't a screen maker. The only screen technology that Apple invested in was MicroLED, yet that failed and only Samsung's MicroLED was ever commercialized.

@Alex80

China wouldn't buy a Company that is "left behind", actually they bought a Company that can give them a competitive advantage thanks to a good know how.

Let's say that Samsung is at 100, LG at 80, BOE(China) at 40, and Japan Display at 20 in terms of technical maturity.

If you are a Chinese display maker starting from 0, even that 20 greatly helps.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Samit BasuToday 06:36 am JST

@gogogo

in terms of technical maturity.

I was wondering why type of ridiculous requisite you'd have to measure Japan with in order to put them last in comparison with Chinese and Korean businesses. It's surprising you didn't mention quality materials or tolerances....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Hillclimber

I was wondering why type of ridiculous requisite you'd have to measure Japan with in order to put them last in comparison with Chinese and Korean businesses. 

That's the cold hard reality, especially true for OLED. Japanese are years behind Koreans in OLED, and behind even the likes of China's BOE.

There is a reason why Samsung has a 95% market share for phone OLED screens, and why Apple continues to pay $100~120 per screen for Samsung's obsolete OLED screen(Samsung sells Apple OLED screens that's one generation behind its own phones, never current gen screens), because Apple has no other choice.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I remember reading somewhere, citing a Japanese guy involved in technology R&D, that Japan can not rely anymore on that approach of copy and improve, that it will be necessary to offer something new instead of improving existing technology. For this company, it went that way.

^^ This ^^ plus more exposure to what’s going on outside Japan.

There maybe some exceptions, but in general I do not think Japan will lead the world in technology but will continue to exist as a support.

Japanese building engineering, robotics, transportation tech, logistics and city engineering are very much top-notch. When it comes to software, internet, web and the general everyday tech, Japan is very much behind.

I often encounter engineers to be good at very specific (often useless) things and fail miserably at generic things. For example, people know how to do competitive programming but have no idea how to structure an OOP program. And yes, this is sad because this means they can’t program in the industrial environment.

The reason, in my opinion, is the lack of insight of the world outside of Japan, partly due to their dislike of English and partly due to the “we Japanese know better” attitude.

The students who do get to the outside world visit southern California and New York City to come back to say Tokyo Disneyland is better or that seeing a Broadway musical was their dream. They also say Americans are big... dekkai. They don’t go to see what their peers are studying. The majors you see in most universities are still Law, Business, Economics, Letters, or some International something major. Where is the Data Science major? The required English courses have them reading Jane Eyre.

This is very much the opposite to what was happening in the beginning of the 20th century, when the Japanese were the best students (the people the government puts on the ¥1000, ¥5000, and ¥10,000 bills past, present, and in the future with the recent announcement) in the European and American universities and gained all the knowledge possible, without hesitation, which led Japan to such heights later.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

bad investment.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Apple will pull out to another source soon.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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