Apple supplier Japan Display gets $920 million bailout from Ichigo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan Display Inc 6740.T said on Friday it had agreed a deal to receive up to 100.8 billion yen (£701 million) from Ichigo Asset Management, a critical bailout for the Apple supplier that has been dependant on publicly funded rescues.

FILE PHOTO: Japan Display's logo is seen at a display of its products at its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The deal will give the independent Japanese investment manager effective control of the liquid crystal display (LCD) maker, replacing the Japanese government-backed INCJ fund as the top shareholder.

The bailout comes as Apple AAPL.O, which sources LCD panels for iPhones from Japan Display, has shown its commitment to financially support Japan Display, which sources said reassured other investors.

“I’ve spoken to Japan Display’s clients and heard their confidence in its technologies,” Scott Callon, Ichigo’s chief executive officer told a press conference, speaking in fluent Japanese.

That was the biggest reason for deciding to invest in Japan Display, said Callon, a former Morgan Stanley banker who has lived in Japan for more than 30 years.

Apple has agreed to shorten payment periods, relax debt repayment terms and put up $200 million. Japan Display generated 61% of its revenue from Apple in the last financial year.

Apple is also leading talks on the potential sale of Japan Display's idled smartphone screen factory to Sharp Corp 6753.T, another iPhone display supplier, sources familiar with the matter said.

Japan Display owes Apple more than $800 million for the $1.5 billion cost of building the plant four years ago.

Ichigo, with more than $7 billion under management, will initially inject 50.4 billion yen into Japan Display by purchasing preferred shares upfront by late March, taking a 44.26% stake.

It is offering to buy an additional 50.4 billion yen in preferred shares for a later date, which could boost its stake up to 70.43% when converted into common shares.

Ichigo’s Callon would join Japan Display as the company’s chairman.

Japan Display has been losing money for the past five years because of its late shift to organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens, competition from cut-price Chinese players and slowing growth in smartphone demand.

Japan Display, which has started supplying OLED displays for the Apple Watch, could extend its OLED screen production for smartphones, Japan Display CEO Minoru Kikuoka said. But it would ensure that investments would be shouldered by clients so that its own balance sheet would not be hurt, he added.

Bailout talks have been repeatedly derailed as Chinese investment firm Harvest and several other potential investors pulled out of the plan.

Japan Display was formed in 2012 when the LCD businesses of Hitachi Ltd 6501.T, Toshiba Corp 6502.T and Sony Corp 6758.T merged in a government-brokered deal.

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; editing by David Evans