May 28, 2014 12:15 am JST

Renesas in bind over sale of Apple supplier

TOKYO -- Japan's Renesas Electronics is trying not to let the sale of a unit whose chips go into every iPhone poison relations with Apple, its biggest customer.

     Renesas wants to unload its stake in Renesas SP Drivers, a fabless supplier of drivers and controllers for liquid crystal displays, to concentrate on automotive and industrial electronics.

     Two bidders made the short list: an Apple affiliate and California-based Synaptics, whose products include touch screens and touch pads. Renesas has settled on the latter after failing to agree with the Apple partner on a price.

     Apple has been moving to corral the technology used to make its devices. Renesas SP's LCD drivers would seem like no exception. But the Apple bid appears to have fallen well short of the estimated 50 billion yen ($490 million) offered by Synaptics.

     Renesas SP's other customers worried that their supplies of LCD drivers would be cut off if Apple took over the unit. Such concerns convinced Renesas to narrow the field of potential buyers to Synaptics late last month.

     The point of Synaptics' bid was to do more business with Apple, so anything that might hurt Renesas SP's relations with the iPhone maker would undermine the value of the investment.

     Apple still seems interested in acquiring the unit. Renesas "hopes to reach an agreement with Synaptics on the sale and will continue to try to persuade Apple to give in," a person familiar with Renesas' plans said.