Apple may be planning to invest some US$1 billion in a Sharp factory to ensure a supply of LCD screens for its iPhone and iPad lineup. MF Global FXA Securities analyst David Rubenstein thinks Apple may be planning the investment to lock in parts inventory for its iOS device lineup.
“We think it is highly possible that Apple will make an investment in Sharp’s Kameyama plant to the tune of around $1 billion in order to secure a stable supply of screens for iPhones and iPads,” Mr. Rubenstein said, according to Reuters.
Japan’s trade ministry industrial revitalization division director, Shuzo Takada, added “An investment could lead to more ties between Apple and the suppliers to Sharp and Toshiba.” Apple has already committed to investing in Toshiba for LCD panels, too.
Unnamed sources claim Sharp already has a deal to provide LCD touch screens for Apple’s iPhone 6, and that the sixth generation model will hit store shelves some time in 2012. Apple hasn’t yet released the iPhone 5 yet, so assuming Sharp does have an iPhone 6 deal, that model most likely wouldn’t be available until closer to the end of the year.
Parts suppliers are also watching closely as Apple starts expanding its parts supplier list in the midst of its ongoing legal battle over mobile device patents. Samsung currently supplies iPhone, iPad and iPod touch parts to Apple, but other manufacturers are hoping to get their own contracts should the situation between the two companies worsens.
“If the situation escalates into a state of war, this could mean a huge shift in orders,” one industry source said. Assuming Apple does shift away from Samsung for mobile device parts, its loss could be good news for other component suppliers, including Sharp.