Japan Display was an Apple LCD provider for a long time, but it was too late to diversify into OLED.
The tale starts in 2016. Japan Display found its LCD orders dropping dramatically as manufacturers of smartphones started shifting to OLED. The company did not have the funds required to build OLED production lines that are costly to create, so it required a public bailout of $636 million to maintain the company afloat and lastly allow it to invest in OLED.
Apple took a leisurely trip to OLED screens, starting with the 2015 Apple Watch, followed by the next year’s Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro, and then its first OLED iPhone, the 2017 iPhone X.
The iPhone maker was keen to diversify their OLED supply chain away from Samsung as their sole supplier, but the market was growing ever more competitive, with Sharp, LG and BOE all hoping to win Apple business. Meanwhile, Japan Display was still struggling to raise the capital required for OLED screen production on a large scale.
A second bailout was announced, initially for $723 million, but subsequently bandied about with a wide variety of numbers. Things looked good for a while as the plan was “confirmed” and Apple Watch screens were ordered by the company. Apple agreed to assist the company by waiting for a $1.5 billion loan to fund LCD production made to the company years earlier.
However, when a major backer exited the rescue plan, things started to unravel. Apple agreed to chip $100 million to help balance the books, but it still looked like OLED iPhone displays were at least two years away.
The Japan Display Saga today’s episode
Nikkei Asian Review reports that the rescue plan is again in doubt as it has reportedly been pulled out by the company leading the bailout.
Orders for iPhone 11 are also said to help.