Emerging Display Technologies

Sharp Misses Qualcomm Deadline for IGZO DIsplays

18 March 2013

Struggling Japanese conglomerate Sharp Corp. has jeopardized a $60 million investment by U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc., according to media reports. By missing a March 29 manufacturing deadline, Sharp is poised to forfeit the second half of a $120 million infusion from San Diego-based Qualcomm.

In December, Sharp agreed to develop energy-saving display panels for Qualcomm. Under the agreement, Sharp was required to advance its display manufacturing process by March 29 and to make an operating profit in the second half of its business year. According to the Reuters news service, Sharp and Qualcomm will now fall back to a June 30 deadline for the Japanese company to meet conditions for the second payment.

The screens that Sharp has to produce were developed in conjunction with Pixtronix, a subsidiary of Qualcomm. The companies have been working together to help commercialize Pixtronix’s digital MEMS-based technology using Sharp’s IGZO backplane technology to create displays with higher backlight efficiency, improved color performance, wider viewing angles, faster response times and lower power consumption, said Vinita Jakhanwal, Director of Mobile & Emerging Displays and Technology at IHS.

“These technology and performance features have become more and more important and can help create market opportunity for the mobile phone market as multimedia content consumption increases,” said Jakhanwal.

Sharp -- as well as other Japanese display manufacturers -- has been struggling as overall demand and prices for the industry’s dominant liquid-crystal display (LCD) panel technology has been declining and companies race to prolong battery life in mobile devices.

Earlier this month, Samsung agreed to invest 10.4 billion yen, or about $111.3 million in Sharp for roughly a 3 percent stake in the company. In a press release announcing the deal, Samsung said the investment was aimed at building up "mutual trust" in the LCD display business as well as offering Sharp a little help getting out of its financial mire -- although it won't be nearly enough. Sharp currently supplies display panels for Samsung products.

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