* Japan Display seeks to be primary supplier to Apple, sources say
* Plant to cost 170 bln yen, source says Apple to invest
* Plant to start in 2016, boost LCD capacity by 20 pct -company (Updates with source confirming plant is for Apple)
TOKYO, March 6 (Reuters) - Japan Display Inc said on Friday that it would build a new $1.4 billion liquid crystal display (LCD) manufacturing plant, which a source said would supply smartphone screens for Apple Inc.
The company did not name Apple, in line with its policy of not identifying clients. A person familiar with the matter said Apple would also invest an unspecified amount in the plant, which would further the Japanese screen maker’s aim of becoming the primary supplier of high-tech screens for iPhones.
The source declined to be named as the investment details remained confidential. The total cost of the plant in Ishikawa, central Japan, is estimated at 170 billion yen, Japan Display said in its statement.
Global iPhone sales, notably in China, have surged to make Apple the most profitable company in history.
Japan Display said it aims to start operations at the plant in 2016 and expects the move to increase its LCD capacity by 20 percent.
The company, formed in a government-backed deal in 2012 from the ailing display units of Sony Corp, Toshiba Corp and Hitachi Ltd, has led a volatile course since its public offering last year.
But it recently reported a rebound to profit, boosted by demand from Apple and Chinese smartphone makers, in stark contrast with Japanese competitor Sharp Corp’s shrinking panel business. ($1 = 120.0300 yen) (Reporting by Ritsuko Ando and Reiji Murai; Editing by Sunil Nair and Miral Fahmy)