Why is Qualcomm Holding Out on Sharp?

  on March 18 2013 1:50 PM
A Qualcomm sign is seen at one of Qualcomm's buildings located on its San Diego Campus
Will the Qualcomm’s Chip Shortage Slowdown in The Roll Out of iPhone 5? REUTERS

Samsung (SSNLF.PK) may not be the only one trying to get a share of Sharp (SHCAY.PK) while it struggles. Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) has also invested a sizable amount in the floundering TV-maker, but a second investment has been delayed.

Qualcomm’s first investment in Sharp was for 4.94 billion yen ($52 million), and the second was to be about 5 billion yen ($52.7 million) but Sharp didn’t manage to meet the terms of the companies’ arrangement, so the second investment may be pushed back to the end of June.

In the agreement, Sharp was supposed to come up with a plan for mass producing its Micro Electro Mechanical System displays, but it hasn’t been able to do so yet. Qualcomm was set to make the second payment on its agreed investment at the end of March, but now it will wait for Sharp to meet the terms of the agreement.  Sharp is also expected to work toward becoming profitable.

Sharp posted a 376 billion-yen ($3.96 billion) net loss at the end of its fiscal year in March of 2012, and it forecast a 450 billion-yen ($4.74 billion) loss for the current fiscal year. Midway through the next fiscal year, it will have maturing debt of around 200 billion yen ($2.11 billion).

While the company struggles, capital alliances like the ones it has made with Qualcomm and Samsung are useful for maintaining liquidity. But, they could also play into the power struggles going on in the global market.

With Samsung as the world’s biggest smartphone maker, Qualcomm as the world’s biggest smartphone chip-marker, Foxconn — which has invested 67 billion yen ($71 million) into Sharp — as a big maker of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) products, and Sharp as Japan’s largest liquid-crystal display maker, having some sway over Sharp could damage relationships between any of the other companies involved.

Currently, Samsung is the largest Sharp shareholder of those mentioned, as it recently took a 3 percent share in the company for 10.4 billion yen ($110 million). But, Qualcomm may soon come close, pending its second investment.

Just how things will work out will be more clear once Qualcomm has finished its investment and when a situation arises, such as a materials shortage, in which Sharp has to prioritize one customer over another.

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