Japan Display aims to double automotive sales to cut Apple dependence -exec

TOKYO, May 17 (Reuters) - Japan Display Inc aims to nearly double its automotive display sales in five years to lessen its dependence on Apple Inc and other smartphone makers, a senior executive said on Thursday.

Holger Gerkens, who was appointed to lead Japan Display’s automotive business in April, said he is confident in achieving year-on-year growth of over 10 percent through financial year 2022, outpacing the average market growth of 7 to 8 percent.

“We know exactly what kind of projects we need to win to follow this growth,” Gerkens said in an interview on Thursday.

His comments come two days after Japan Display announced a record net loss of 247.2 billion yen ($2.23 billion) for the year ended March as growing competition from Asian rivals aggravated a slowdown in smartphone screen sales.

Automotive display products are widely seen key to helping offset the impact of a saturated smartphone market as more carmakers mount cockpits with digital features for navigation and entertainment systems.

Japan Display currently has the top market share of 19 percent in automotive screens in terms of value, though South Korea’s LG Display Co Ltd is not far behind with around 14.1 percent, according to researcher His.

Automotive displays generated just over 100 billion yen at Japan Display in the last financial year, or 15 percent of its total revenue. In contrast, sales to Apple accounted for about half.

Annual 10 percent growth over the next five years would result in over 190 billion yen in auto sales in the year through March 2023.

Gerkens also said the combination of advanced technologies in thin-film transistors, touch screens as well as a history of trust would keep the company ahead of rivals.

Unlike the fast-changing smartphone market, “nothing is changing overnight (in the automotive market). That’s a good thing,” he said.

Japan Display was formed in 2012 by combining the display businesses of Hitachi Ltd, Toshiba Corp and Sony Corp in a deal brokered by the state-backed Innovation Network Corp of Japan (INCJ), its biggest investor. ($1 = 110.6900 yen)

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki and Yoshida Shida Editing by Christopher Cushing