Sharp to begin delivering cutting-edge iTV panels to Foxconn in Q3 2012

Back in May, a report quoted Foxconn CEO Terry Gou as saying his company was “making preparations” to assemble a full-blown television set for Apple. It proved bogus when Foxconn issued a statement claiming Gou “neither confirmed nor speculated about Foxconn’s involvement in the production of any product”, but such an ambiguously worded denial only added fuel to fire.

According to a new rumor by Chinese news site (via AppleInsider), based on talks with a Sharp executive and other sources at the company, Sharp will begin delivering LCD television panels to Foxconn in the third quarter of this year, for the specific purpose of assembling Apple television sets…

The publication explains:

The details were reported Thursday morning on Chinese news site, and summarized by analyst Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets. According to the report, Foxconn originally expected to begin receiving LCD TV panels for an Apple television in the fourth quarter of this year, but that scheduled arrival from Sharp has apparently been moved up.

Analyst Gene Munster is convinced that Apple will introduce its TV set in December, with sales commencing six months later.

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou made candid remarks in a Monday chat with shareholders, stressing he has made it a lifetime goal to defeat Samsung. He then went on to advise investors to wait for the launch of the next iPhone as it would put Samsung’s Galaxy S III to shame, if a poorly translated China Times article is to be believed.

And just last week, Reuters reported that Foxconn wants to buy more shares of Sharp, following its March acquisition of an eleven percent stake in the Japanese multinational corporation, worth $844 million.

Gou also paid out of his own pocket for a 46.48 percent stake in Sharp’s cutting-edge 10th generation display plant in Sakai, Japan, confirming the jointly operated facility enjoys an exclusive agreement with American cover glass maker Corning on large panel supply “so our competitors won’t be able to secure any glass even if they want it”.

Make no mistake, Foxconn and Apple are after Samsung.

For example, Gou called Samsung, its arch rival, “a company with a track record of snitching on its competitors”. He was referring to Samsung’s action in 2010 of snitching on four Taiwanese companies in an investigation by the European Commission on price-fixing in the flat panel industry. Samsung was exempted from the investigation by serving as a “tainted witness”.

I know this is all speculation at this point, but there are too many coincidences this late in the game. I think Foxconn is buying Sharp because Apple guaranteed a multi-year order of next-generation LCD panels.

Whether or not these are for an Apple-branded HD TV set is a different matter, but clearly Foxconn is investing a lot of money to secure cutting-edge panels and block rivals from using these technologies.

Apple in the past purchased expensive CNC machines to make Unibody cases and billed Gou, even though the expensive equipment is operated and maintained by Foxconn. Who’s to say that Foxconn isn’t now buying Sharp shares on behalf of Apple?

Up next: Apple buys a stake in Foxconn.

What do you guys think?