Apple rumored to be investing in Sharp

Sharp, who makes TVs, displays and other electronics, is in serious trouble right now. The company is bleeding money, its stock price is plummeting and it says that it’s not sure that it can continue to operate.

In fact, the dyer situation has Foxconn worried enough that it’s thinking about pulling out of its deal to buy an 11% stake in the company. But according to a new report, Apple may be looking to help out…

Computerworld (via 9to5Mac) reports:

The Osaka-based manufacture said there is “material doubt” about its ability to continue operating in its earnings report filed Thursday. Sharp added, however, that it still believes it can cut costs and secure enough credit to survive. Its IGZO technology for mobile displays is likely to be a key element of its business strategy…

…The company, whose stock has been downgraded to junk status by ratings agencies, continues to seek investments from outside companies, with media reports in Japan linking it to companies including Apple and Intel.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumors that Apple is looking to invest in Sharp. Last fall, analyst David Rubenstein told clients that there was a good chance that the Cupertino company would invest in the display-maker.

But what does Apple see in the failing manufacturer? Well as the report says, Sharp is looking to focus more on its IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) panel business. And there’s been a lot of talk in recent months that Apple is looking to use these low-power, high resolution displays in its mobile devices.

Given that Sharp makes iPhone 5 displays for Apple, and is about to start mass production of its first IGZO panels, there’s a good chance that the two will remain supply chain partners. And even if Apple doesn’t make a significant investment, having it place $100 million panel orders can’t hurt.

It’ll be interesting to watch this situation unfold, and see if Sharp can navigate itself out of the murky waters. The move from TV panels to the more popular smartphone and tablet displays is certainly a good start.