Apple eyes Japanese chipmaker buyout for better iPhone displays

iPhone 5S
Apple's big LCD investment

Although the rumor mill tends to focus on what's happening inside Apple's Asian manufacturing facilities, the real action appears to be taking place in Japan, where the iPhone maker may be eyeing its next big investment in the future.

Nikkei Asian Review filed a report today claiming Apple's next acquisition will take place in Japan, with a majority buyout of the company who produces controller chips for smaller LCD panels such as those used in smartphones.

In a deal said to be valued at 50 billion yen (about AU$521 million), Apple apparently hopes to consume Renesas Electronics' 55 percent stake in Renesas SP Drivers, a joint venture with Sharp and Powerchip.

Renesas SP currently dominates nearly one-third of the global market for LCD drivers and controllers, focusing its efforts on higher quality, better performing displays which consume less energy.

Cornering LCD chips

Although Apple generally doesn't put all of its eggs into one basket when it comes to components, Renesas SP Drivers reportedly provides all of the chips powering the liquid crystal displays (LCD) for the company's iPhone line.

The deal could give Apple yet another a leg up on competitors, especially when Renesas SP chips are said to utilize less than 10 percent of overall battery consumption.

The report notes that Apple hopes to close the deal by summer, and plans to keep the staff of "240 or so" employees in Japan, rather than move their work to its Cupertino headquarters.

Cupertino is also said to be interested in absorbing Sharp's 25 percent share after the Renesas deal closes, leaving Taiwanese manufacturer Powerchip with a remaining 20 percent ownership.

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