OSAKA -- Sharp is considering major revisions to its investment plan for organic light-emitting diode panels even though the changes could cause the company to fall behind powerful rivals.
The struggling Japanese electronics maker, rescued this year by Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry, aimed to start mass production of OLED panels as early as 2018, but this effort may be delayed. Sharp has planned to spend 200 billion yen ($1.99 billion) to kick off the OLED business by tapping investment from Hon Hai, also known as Foxconn Technology Group -- but this amount might be revisited as well.
Sharp's original road map called for a new production line for OLED panels at the company's Kameyama plant in Mie Prefecture. But the company now is considering building a line in a plant belonging to Sakai Display Products, a Sharp-Foxconn joint venture for large liquid crystal display panels in Osaka Prefecture. Foxconn is dissolving a Japanese unit that handled research and development on OLED panels, and the unit's engineers have been transferred to Sakai Display Products.
Demand for OLED panels is expected to soar, with U.S. tech giant Apple reportedly planning to use them in its future iPhone models. Smelling opportunities, South Korea's Samsung Electronics and LG Display have decided to make large investments to mass-produce OLED panels for smartphones. Their moves apparently have made it difficult for other players to secure equipment necessary for making such panels.
Among Sharp's domestic rivals, Japan Display is considering mass-production of OLED panels for smartphones.