September 3, 2012 / 2:51 AM / 8 years ago

Sharp president may seek Hon Hai deal in Taiwan - source

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sharp Corp’s (6753.T) president may travel to Taiwan in a bid to conclude as soon as possible a deal that will make Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd (2317.TW) the biggest shareholder of the embattled Japanese TV maker, a source told Reuters.

Sharp President Takashi Okuda wants meet with Hon Hai’s chairman, Terry Gou, the source said on Monday, on condition he wasn’t identified.

Sharp has been in talks with Hon Hai on a partnership that would give the Taiwanese company a 9.9 percent stake in the century-old Japanese firm. Gou visited Japan last week but unexpectedly left on Thursday, cancelling a meeting with Okuda and other Sharp senior executives slated for Friday.

Okuda will visit Taiwan as early as this week, the Sankei newspaper reported on Monday, without citing any sources.

“We can’t disclose our executives’ schedule, but we are hoping to settle the negotiations as early as possible,” Sharp spokeswoman Miyuki Nakayama said.

Sharp’s chief financial officer, Tetsuo Onishi, said on Friday his company regretted that it had been unable to conclude a partnership pact.

The debt-saddled Japanese firm wants to sell Hon Hai, the main manufacturer of Apple Inc (AAPL.O) products, a stake in return for badly needed cash soon while leaving discussion of further business cooperation for later talks, he added.

Hon Hai, however, appears to want any agreement to also include tie-ups in small LCD panels and further cooperation in smartphones and TV displays, Onishi said.

NO TIMETABLE

Gou on Friday told Taiwan’s United Evening News that there was no timetable for a deal with Sharp, but he sees a “good outcome” for their talks.

He said it was not a matter of how much money Hon Hai spent but how Sharp could turn itself around.

The Taiwanese company had agreed to pay 67 billion yen ($856 million), or 550 yen a share, for 9.9 percent of Sharp in March, but restarted talks to seek a lower price after the LCD TV pioneer’s stock slumped below 200 yen in August.

Gou also purchased a 38 percent stake in Sharp’s TV panel plant in Sakai, western Japan, the world’s most advanced LCD factory.

Hon Hai wants to invest more than $1 billion in the plant from as early as next year to boost capacity, the Taiwanese company said last week.

Sharp for now, however, is looking for cash to pay its debts rather than to invest in new plant. For that, junk-rated Sharp has to rely on its main banks, Mizuho Financial Group (8411.T) and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (8306.T).

Sharp, with debt of 1.25 trillion yen, has to refinance as much as 360 billion yen in short-term commercial paper loans and has a 200 billion yen convertible bond due in September 2013.

The stock resumed its slide on Monday after ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded the company’s debt to junk status last week, citing Sharp’s weakening liquidity position.

Sharp fell 7 percent in early trading, after dropping 12.8 percent on Friday, its biggest decline in almost a month. ($1 = 78.3000 Japanese yen)

Reporting by Reiji Murai, Tim Kelly and Mari Saito; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Ryan Woo

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