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LCD madness: Now Canon buys into Hitachi

Just as we were getting our heads around the machinations in the display business after Sony started working with Sharp, we hear that Canon is buying into Hitachi's LCD business. This is really starting to get complicated.

Canon is, apparently, paying around £200 million to take over 25 per cent of Hitachi's LCD division. It wants to ensure it has enough screens for its cameras and photocopiers. To make matters worse, Panasonic also grabbed 25 per cent of the same Hitachi business a few weeks ago.

Cartel suspicion

The move comes against a background of intense activity in the LCD field that is starting to raise eyebrows with the authorities. Japan's Fair Trade Commission announced today that it is investigating both Sharp and Hitachi on suspicion of forming a cartel in LCDs for Nintendo's DS Lite.

Because of the practice of firms holding stakes in other ventures, which in turn have part- or wholly owned subsidiaries in the same business, the flat-panel display market is currently clouded in paper trails.

For example, as well as the above deals, Samsung works with Sony and Toshiba with Sharp on both large LCDs and other TV components in Asia alone - the picture worldwide is just as complex, making one wonder if the consumer is getting a fair deal.