Sony teaming up with Sharp in TV displays

ByYuri Kageyama, Associated Press

TOKYO -- Falling behind rivals in flat-panel development for TVs, Sony is teaming with Japanese rival Sharp in procuring liquid crystal displays, a company official said Tuesday.

Japan's business daily The Nikkei reported Tuesday that Sony plans to invest $926 million in a plant Sharp is building to make panels for flat TVs.

A Sony official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said a news conference will be held later Tuesday in Tokyo to give details, but would not elaborate.

Sharp spokeswoman Miyuki Nakayama declined comment.

Demand for slimmer TVs is growing around the world. Although the televisions use various panel technologies, LCD is the leading technology so far along with plasma.

Sony does not make its own LCD or plasma display panels. It has been buying LCD panels from Samsung of South Korea in a joint venture.

But Sony can hope to ensure panel supply through its partnership with Sharp.

Both Sharp and Samsung make flat TVs under their own brands, and Sony, Sharp and Samsung are competing for their piece of the global flat-TV pie.

Some surveys have shown Sony momentarily leading in LCD TV sales, but Samsung is now believed to be No. 1.

Osaka-based Sharp, which is struggling to gain overseas brand recognition, still trails Samsung and Sony. Sharp's Aquos brand of LCD TVs is extremely popular in Japan.

Sony management failed to recognize how quickly slimmer TVs would take off, partly because of the huge success it enjoyed in developing and selling high-quality old-style televisions.

Its failure in flat TVs was a major reason for its faltering earnings several years ago. But Sony has staged a comeback recently under the helm of Howard Stringer, the Welsh-born American who took over as chief executive in 2005, becoming the first foreigner to lead the maker of the Walkman portable player.

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