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Sony to invest over $1 billion in Sharp LCD unit

Sony Corp will likely invest more than 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion) in a planned liquid crystal display TV panel venture with Sharp Corp, the Nikkei business daily reported on Friday. Sony announced last year that it planned to take a 34% stake in a joint venture with Sharp to manage a 380 billion yen LCD panel factory in western Japan, but the two sides have not come to a final agreement on the stake and investment split.

Shares of Sony were up 2.2% at 2,380 yen while Sharp rose 2.7% to 946 yen, roughly in line with a 2.7% gain in Japan's electrical machinery index. The two companies will finalize plans for the joint venture by the end of July, with Sony's initial investment likely to be about 50-60 billion yen and eventually climbing to more than 100 billion yen, the Nikkei said.

Representatives for Sony and Sharp said nothing has been decided and declined to comment further. The deal is aimed at allowing Sony to secure enough panels for the growing LCD TV market while giving Sharp a partner to help shoulder the cost of the plant.

Sharp has said that it planned to start operations at the LCD plant in the western Japanese city of Sakai in October to meet recovering flat TV demand.

The factory will be the world's first plant that handles so-called 10th-generation glass substrates, which are bigger than earlier-generation substrates and help reduce per-panel production costs. (Reuters)