Apple’s $200M investment in Japan Display reassures, attracts $830M one

Apple’s agreement to put $200M into the bailout of supplier Japan Display has reassured other investors, and resulted in a new $830 investment from an asset manager, helping the company’s move into making OLED screens for the Apple Watch…

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Reuters reports.

Apple supplier Japan Display Inc said on Thursday it plans to receive up to 90 billion yen ($830 million) in financial support from Japanese asset manager Ichigo Asset Management.

Ichigo will join Apple and Taiwanese contract electronics manufacturer Wistron Corp in bailing out the advanced liquid crystal display (LCD) maker.

Apple’s commitment to financially support Japan Display has reassured potential investors, two sources with direct knowledge of the talks told Reuters.

“It’s a vote of confidence,” one of them said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Japan Display currently makes the screens of the LCD model iPhone 11 and is about to begin production of OLED screens for the Apple Watch, alongside existing supplier LG.

We recently recapped the saga to date.

The story begins back in 2016. Japan Display found its LCD orders falling dramatically as smartphone manufacturers began the shift to OLED. The company didn’t have the capital needed to build OLED production lines, which are expensive to create, so needed a $636 million government bailout to keep the company afloat and let it finally invest in OLED.

Apple took a leisurely journey toward OLED screens, starting with the Apple Watch in 2015, followed by the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro the following year, and then its first OLED iPhone, the iPhone X in 2017.

The iPhone maker was keen to diversify its OLED supply chain away from Samsung as its sole supplier, but the market was growing increasingly competitive, with Sharp, LG, and BOE all hoping to win Apple business. Japan Display, in the meantime, was still struggling to raise the capital needed for large-scale OLED screen production.

A second bailout was announced, initially for $723 million, though with a wide variety of numbers subsequently bandied about. Things looked good for a while as that plan was “confirmed,” and the company won orders for Apple Watch screens. Apple agreed to assist the company by waiting for repayment of a $1.5 billion loan made to the company years earlier to fund LCD production.

However, things started unravelling when a major backer exited the rescue plan. Apple agreed to chip in $100 million to help balance the books, but OLED iPhone displays still looked to be at least two years away.

A second backer then withdrew in September – this time, the one leading the consortium – before Apple agreed to contribute $200M.

Since then, the company’s past earnings were thrown into doubt as part of the fallout of a $5M fraud.

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