Hon Hai chairman says still wants to invest in Sharp: report

TOKYO Wed Jun 18, 2014 7:00am EDT

A man walks past an advertisement of Sharp Corp at an electronics retail store in Tokyo October 31, 2013.    REUTERS/Toru Hanai

A man walks past an advertisement of Sharp Corp at an electronics retail store in Tokyo October 31, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (2317.TW) is still interested in investing in Japan's Sharp Corp (6753.T) despite the collapse of an equity deal two years ago and would take a stake "tomorrow" at current market prices, the Taiwan company's chairman told a Japanese magazine.

Sharp, Japan's biggest display maker which was bailed out by its banks after a cash crunch, agreed two years ago to consider selling Hon Hai a 9.9 percent stake but that deal fell through and Sharp found other equity partners.

"If Sharp says it still wants my help, I would make an investment," Gou was quoted as telling business weekly Toyo Keizai. "I still want to invest in Sharp. If it agrees to market prices, I would invest tomorrow."

Sharp, which has also sold 38 percent of a cutting edge display plant in western Japan to Gou, is still working to shore up its fortunes and media reports have said it may sell shares to raise funds and bolster its equity ratio.

But industry executives and analysts have said they doubt it would reconsider a deal with Hon Hai after making deals with other companies.

A Sharp spokesman declined to comment.

Sharp and Hon Hai signed a high-profile agreement in March 2012 to form a capital and strategic partnership under which Hon Hai would consider taking a 9.9 percent stake in Sharp for 550 yen a share. Those talks eventually collapsed after Sharp's share price plunged as it faced larger-than-expected losses.

Sharp's shares sank by more than half from 604 yen at the end of March 2012 to 270 yen three months later and by October hit a low of 142. The shares have recovered as Sharp rebuilt its finances, closing at 314 on Wednesday, down 1.6 percent.

"If I could (invest in Sharp), I will turn it into a great company in two years," the Toyo Keizai quoted Gou as saying.

Hon Hai confirmed Gou's comments.

Without the equity investment from Hon Hai, cash-strapped Sharp, a supplier to Apple Inc (AAPL.O), received a $4.4 billion bailout from banks in 2012 and later sold equity stakes to Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) and South Korea's Samsung Electronics, the latter receiving a 3 percent stake at 290 yen per share.

Gou said he still occasionally meets with current Sharp President Kozo Takahashi as a personal investor in Sharp's LCD plant but also because he wants to tie up with Sharp itself.

(Reporting by Reiji Murai in TOKYO and Faith Hung in TAIPEI; Writing by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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