* LCD screens drawing renewed interest
* Japan Display has started producing OLED panels
* Apple accounts for the majority of Japan Display’s revenue (Recasts and adds company comment)
By Makiko Yamazaki and Noriyuki Hirata
TOKYO, Oct 7 (Reuters) – Apple Inc supplier Japan Display Inc said it aims to clinch a deal for least 50 billion yen ($468 million) in vital funding by the end of the month, having had to scramble after a Chinese investor group suddenly pulled out of a bailout plan.
New Chief Executive Minoru Kikuoka told Reuters in an interview that liquid crystal display (LCD) screens are drawing renewed market interest, pointing to solid demand for affordable smartphones with low-cost screens.
“We are close to 50 billion and I believe we can cement the deal this month,” said Kikuoka, who took the helm of the cash-strapped display maker in September.
The deal, if realised, would ease immediate risks of a cash shortfall after Chinese investment firm Harvest Group last month withdrew from the consortium of investors behind the bailout.
Japan Display has said Hong Kong-based Oasis Management still plans to contribute $150-180 million, while a major Japan Display client, which sources said is Apple, intends to invest $200 million.
The Japanese display maker has been unprofitable for the last five years, as a late shift to organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens has cost it orders from Apple. The U.S. tech giant accounted for 60.6% of Japan Display’s revenue in the last financial year ended March.
Orders for LCD screens from a major customer have been “stronger than previously planned,” Kikuoka said. The comment follows a recent Nikkei Asian Review report that Apple has asked suppliers to increase production of its iPhone 11 models by around 10%.
Kikuoka also said the company has started producing OLED screens. Sources have said Japan Display will produce OLED screens for the Apple Watch this year.
Asked about mass-production of OLED panels for smartphones, he said the company would seek business partners or investors and avoid having excessive capacity.
($1 = 106.8400 yen) (Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki and Noriyuki Hirata; Editing by David Dolan and Edwina Gibbs)