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Chinese group to delay bailout funding for Apple supplier Japan Display

By Makiko Yamazaki
FILE PHOTO: Japan Display Inc's logo is pictured at its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, August 9, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

By Makiko Yamazaki

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Chinese-Taiwanese group is delaying an up to 80 billion yen ($729.33 million) investment planned as part of a rescue deal for Apple Inc supplier Japan Display as it wants to reassess the target's prospects, the Japanese firm said.

A prolonged delay could put at risk the survival of the cash-strapped smartphone screen maker, which has been hit by Apple's slowing iPhone sales and a late shift to organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens.

The buyer group, which includes Taiwanese flat screen maker TPK Holding and Chinese investment firm Harvest Group, had planned to formalise the investment decisions by mid-June.

The bailout deal, announced a month ago, would allow the buyers to become Japan Display's biggest shareholders with a 49.8 percent stake, replacing the Japanese government-backed INCJ fund.

But the group has informed the company that they will make such decisions "after re-examining the prospects for Japan Display's business performance", the company said on Monday, adding there was no time frame for the review.

TPK and Harvest did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

A source familiar with the matter said that Japan Display's financial situation has changed since the deal was agreed, prompting the group to reassess the business. The source declined to elaborate on the change in the situation.

Japan Display has estimated it will post its fifth straight year of net losses for the year ended in March, as disappointing sales of Apple's iPhone XR, the only model with a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen, dashed hopes for a turnaround. The company will announce its financial results on Wednesday.

Some analysts said the move could be deal tactics.

"The buyer group is apparently pressurising Japan Display to sweeten the offer," said Masayuki Otani, chief market analyst at Securities Japan, who is not involved with the deal. "It's a good deal for the group as it gets solid panel technologies, but the cheaper the better."

The Chinese group's investment is part of a 232 billion yen ($2.1 billion) bailout plan, in which INCJ will accept a debt-to-preferred equity swap totaling 75 billion yen and extend senior loans worth 77 billion yen.

Japan Display said INCJ has told the company it would not change the plan, although the final agreement will be made in line with the buyer group's investment decisions.

Japan Display was formed in 2012 by combining the LCD businesses of Hitachi Ltd, Toshiba Corp and Sony Corp in a deal brokered by the government.

($1 = 109.6900 yen)


(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)