Sharp, Intel tieup rumored for ultrabook LCDs

September 24, 2012 – Sharp Corp. is in discussions with Intel to use the Japanese firm’s LCD panels in new ultrabook laptops, and could be seeking a more substantial partnership that would make the chipmaking giant its top stakeholder, according to local media.

The Mainichi reported that the two firms "are in talks" for Intel to invest more than ¥30B (roughly US $380M) in the "financial troubled" Japanese company, with a deal possible as soon as early October. In a terse announcement, Sharp denied any capital tie-up negotiations.

Sharp’s IGZO display technology (indium gallium zinc oxide) for small- and medium-sized LCDs is seen as a good fit with Intel-powered ultrabooks. It offers mobility performance somewhere between amorphous and low-temperature polysilicon. Its benefits include lower power consumption, thinness (less backlighting needed), highly touch-sensitive, and high definition.

Intel, meanwhile, is viewed as something of a white knight for the Japanese firm, which earlier this year tried a similar tie-up with Taiwanese conglomerate Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.. That deal apparently remains in limbo due to a plunge in Sharp’s valuation. Reuters notes that "cash-strapped" Sharp has nearly ¥360B in short-term loans to repay, and is approaching existing lenders for another ¥200B in more loans.

Sharp has separately announced other efforts to improve its financial standing, including the sale of its US subsidiary Recurrent Energy, two years after it bought the solar firm. It also is selling TV assembly plants in Mexico and China to Hon Hai, and instituting early retirement plans in Japan to reduce costs.

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