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Business deals

Budget brand TCL teams with Sony-Panasonic venture for large TVs

Chinese company will invest $190m in the Japanese OLED joint venture

JOLED seeks to shake up the OLED industry by developing the printing manufacturing process.

TOKYO -- China's TCL Technology Group, billed as the fastest-growing TV brand in the U.S., will invest 20 billion yen ($187 million) in JOLED, the Japanese display maker created from the organic light-emitting diode operations of Panasonic and Sony, in an effort to develop mass production technology for large television panels within three years.

JOLED will be more than 10%-owned by TCL display-manufacturing unit TCL China Star Optoelectronics Technology after receiving a private placement of new shares. The Chinese company will also lend the Tokyo-based display maker 10 billion yen to cover capital investments needed for prototype-panel production.

"JOLED will bring its proprietary printed OLED manufacturing technology and will start joint-development of large-sized OLEDs for TV application together with TCL CSOT," the Japanese company said Friday.

JOLED is researching and developing technology for producing OLED displays through inkjet printing. The current method involves evaporating electroluminescent material inside vacuum chambers using expensive masks.

The printing method is expected to streamline the manufacturing process, cut costs, and be adaptable to many products.

Known for offering some of the cheapest models at such stores as Costco and Best Buy, TCL says that it is world's second-largest television maker by market share and sold more than 32 million TVs worldwide last year.

South Korea's LG Display controls the majority of the market for large-screen OLED television panels. With the massive capital expenditures involved, there is a significant risk to a company owning mass production equipment.

Eventually, JOLED aims to become a fabless operation that licenses panel-making tech for a fee to deep-pocketed TV manufacturers.

JOLED was formed in 2015 by combining Panasonic's and Sony's OLED display development divisions under the guidance of Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The company will likely be asked by the government to prevent the leakage of technology to foreign companies.

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