Sharp in talks with Apple to regain control of iPhone panel plant

Sharp Kameyama Plant (image 001)

Sharp is looking to regain control of its Kameyama plant back from Apple. Nikkei is reporting this afternoon that the company has proposed a deal to the Cupertino firm worth nearly $300 million, in an effort to diversify its customer base.

The Kameyama Plant No. 1 began operations in 2004 as a facility for manufacturing large panels for flat-screen TVs. But after consecutive years of profit losses, it called on Apple to help foot the bill to transition the plant to smaller panels…

Here’s more from the Nikkei report:

OSAKA — Sharp is looking to buy smartphone panel production equipment at one of its Kameyama plants in Mie Prefecture from Apple in a bid to diversify its customer base. The Japanese company has proposed 30 billion yen ($293 million) or so for the deal, according to a source close to the matter. […]

The plant now runs at an operating rate above 90%, making panels for new iPhones scheduled to debut this fall. With the utilization rate seen remaining high for the time being, “we don’t have to rush” to close the deal, a senior Sharp official said. Negotiations between the two companies could thus drag out.

As part of the proposed deal, Sharp seeks to buy smartphone display manufacturing tools, and a leadership role at the factory. This would allow the company to produce panels for other handset makers, decreasing its dependency on Apple.

Apple typically sources components from several suppliers, but it’s unclear how willing it will be to give up the Kameyama plant. With it currently running above 90% efficiency, and IGZO display tech on the rise, Sharp is still very important to it.