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Taiwan-China white knight defers decision on Japan Display

Embattled Apple supplier begins to consider other bailout options

The company is hoping to receive a capital injection of over $700 million. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

TOKYO -- It was the phone call that never came. Japan Display did not hear from a Taiwanese-Chinese consortium of investors on Friday, the day the potential white knight had promised to make the struggling display maker's rescue official.

Now, with the 80 billion yen ($737 million) capital injection from the group in doubt, Japan Display, or JDI, is facing the reality of having to look for other bailout options.

"As of now, we have not heard that the details of their decision," JDI announced Friday afternoon. The Apple iPhone supplier said it would make public the decision as soon as it hears, including if the consortium decided it needs to renegotiate the deal, suggesting that such an option was possible.

The consortium consists of Taiwanese electronic component maker TPK Holding, Taiwanese financial group Fubon Group and China's Harvest Fund Management. JDI announced in April that it would accept the bailout offer from the three, but the group has delayed the official authorization process several times.

The Japanese company has begun talks with other possible white knights and intends to clarify the way forward by its annual shareholders meeting on June 18.

Japan Display, which was created in 2012 through a merger of the liquid-crystal display operations of Hitachi, Toshiba and Sony, was once heralded as the savior of the country's display industry. While supplying LCD panels for Apple's iPhones remains a pillar of its business, the recent slowdown in smartphone sales has been a strong headwind.

In late May, JDI told investors that it had secured additional funding from top shareholder INCJ, a Japanese public-private fund, as well as more leeway for repaying money borrowed from its top client Apple.

Against this backdrop, the Taiwanese-Chinese consortium had told JDI that it would pass the plan through their respective boards by June 14.

Sources say the consortium got cold feet after seeing JDI's performance weaken. The company logged a net loss of 109.4 billion yen for the fiscal year ended in March, according to results released May 15.

Japan Display said it will shutter its Hakusan plant in Ishikawa Prefecture as of July. Meanwhile, sources said one Taiwanese member of the consortium has talked of leaving the rescue scheme.

While sticking to the rescue plan, JDI has begun preparations for a "Plan B," talking to global funds and a Chinese panel maker, sources said.

Sharp Chairman and CEO Tai Jeng-wu told Nikkei on Friday that his company would be amenable to a tie-up with JDI.

"We have not received any offers but we are open," Tai said in an interview. "If such a request came from their side, we will consider it." 

One example of support, Tai said, would be for Sharp to rent and operate JDI's factory.

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