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IGZO: Has Sharp Found Its Edge?

By Oonagh Reidy | Thursday | 28/03/2013

Sharp is banking on IGZO LCD's to pull it out of financial doldrums.

Sharp's IZGO (Indium Zinc Gallium Oxide) LCD display technology can also be used on mobiles and tablets, a key area that has eluded the struggling TV panel maker, to date.

 IZGO LCD's have been touted by Sharp as having better resolution display, long battery life, and more sensitive touch screen and touch pen input.

The Japanese giant, the first to successfully mass produce IZGO debuted its new LCD innovation on tabs, TV's  at CES in January, where  Sharp CEO Toshiyuki Osawa, outlined its business plans which center on IZGO, which it has "high expectations" for.

The display tech may also be its saving grace against the might of rivals TV Samsung, who uses AMOLED, OLED technology, LG and Apple who relies on Retina screens.

But Samsung, now the worlds biggest mobile maker, has now invested a three per cent ownership stake in Sharp worth  ?10.4bn ($112m),

The deal confirmed earlier this month, opens up a new potential source of demand for these products, believes  Edward Border, US based TV Technology analyst at IHS, and will be a good supply partnership for Samsung also, who will ahve access to its 10 generation LCD plant.

The deal may also mean better utilization of Sharp's technological assets and a better exploitation of its comparative advantage in panel display production.

"Sharp's bulk IZGO (Indium Zinc Gallium Oxide) LCD display production launched in April last year may also become more cost effective considering the stabilization of Indium prices over the last few months."

Sharp's IZGO, if successful, may also help reduce its operating losses, which amounted to ?166bn ($2bn) at the end of last year, and help lift share price.

And as for any potential conflict with Apple, Samsung's arch rival and a major client of Sharp's, IHS says it doesn't "believe at this moment that the deal will affect supply for Apple," Veronica Gonzalez-Thayer  Analyst, TV Systems, told CN last month.

Sharp this week also failed to agree to strike a deal with Apple biggest supplier Hon Hai, also known as Foxconn, who wants to 9.9% stake in Sharp, although could not to agree on a price.

However, despite extensive negotiations it still hopes to form a business alliance with Sharp once a price is agreed on, Hon Hai said this week.

Hon Hai Chairman Terry Gou already owns half of Sharp's 10th Generation LCD plant.

But Sharps desperate bid for capital is essential to its survival and cash flow, could get messy.

It supplies iPad displays to Apple, who it is more heavily dependent on after failing out with Samsung.

If Hon Hai do get a 10% take in the company, there could be a major struggle for control of Sharp production lines, which Samsung now has access to.

Sharp said in a statement this week the investment by Hon Hai is "aimed at the enhancement of manufacturing facilities of LCDs for mobile devices as well as the implementation of new LCD technologies."

The Japanese giant has also pledged to rationalize its manufacturing operation in a bid to cuts costs, reduction of capital expenditures, sell  assets, and cut staff in a bid to to resolve cash-flow problems.

Sharp diversification of its share ownership also includes chip maker Qualcomm who has invested ?9.9bn.

Negotiations with Hon Hai are to stay open for another three years.

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