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Electronics

Sharp bolsters defense with promotion of cost-cutter Nomura

CEO Tai taps right-hand man to chart recovery from pandemic

Katsuaki Nomura has been named Sharp's new president and chief operating officer, succeeding Tai Jeng-Wu. (Photo by Wataru Ito)

OSAKA -- Sharp will promote Chairman and CEO Tai Jeng-Wu's top deputy as president, creating a two-man leadership team as the company faces the challenge of restoring finances battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Executive Vice President Katsuaki Nomura will become president and COO effective June 25, the company said Tuesday. Tai will vacate his post as president but remain chairman and CEO.

"We'll form a strong tag team to once again restore" the company, Nomura said during Tuesday's earnings call.

Nomura, 63, is the sole Sharp insider left sitting on the company's board. When Apple assembler Foxconn took over the Osaka-based company in 2016, Nomura was promoted to vice president.

Nomura was instrumental in turning around Sakai Display Products, the group's liquid crystal display plant he headed, and that feat impressed Terry Gou, the founder of Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry.

Tai has called Nomura his "right-hand man," and the two restructured Sharp back to profitability. Nomura was responsible for pushing through Foxconn-inspired reforms, such as the rapid offshoring of production. Nomura also smoothed things over with Sharp's union members.

Tai Jeng-Wu will remain chairman and CEO.

For the fiscal year ended March 2016, just before Foxconn's takeover, Sharp posted a 255.9 billion yen ($2.38 billion) net loss. Nomura utilized his extensive resume in accounting to institute a cost-cutting program that brought the company back into the black in fiscal 2017.

Sharp finds itself once again needing to go on the defensive. The net profit for the just finished fiscal year plunged 72% to 20.89 billion yen, the company said Tuesday, while sales fell 5% to 2.27 trillion yen.

Sales of small and medium-sized LCD panels dropped as Chinese client companies reduced factory operations because of the coronavirus.

Sharp has not publicized a guidance for the current financial year. "Economic prospects appear uncertain, and we face a harsh environment," said Nomura.

A recovery for on-board displays remains unlikely due to the global slump in automobile production. The output for iPhones is on track to shrink 4% this year.

Reducing the dependency on Apple has become a pressing issue. The U.S. tech giant accounted for 23% of the revenues in fiscal 2018. The ratio is down from the peak of 27% in fiscal 2015, but is still a sizable chunk of sales.

Its Healsio series of cookers have been a hit, but stabilizing the LCD panel business is imperative due to its scale.

Both Apple and Sharp are jointly negotiating a purchase of Japan Display's Hakusan LCD plant in Ishikawa Prefecture. Nomura is apparently involved in those talks.

The plan is to concentrate smartphone panels to the Hakusan location and boost profitability. Meanwhile, Sharp will shift its Kameyama and Mie LCD plants, both in Mie Prefecture, toward automotive uses, as well as toward internet of things devices. The goal appears to be developing new customers.

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