Report: Apple in talks to buy Renesas chip joint venture

Apple is apparently seeking to enhance displays and battery life with the acquisition

Apple is said to be in talks with Renesas Electronics to buy its majority-owned joint venture that designs chips for smartphone displays.

With an eye to improving image sharpness and battery life, the iPhone maker is interested in Renesas SP Drivers, which has developed components for Apple displays, Japan's Nikkei newspaper reported Wednesday.

Apple is looking to acquire Renesas Electronics' 55 percent stake in the joint venture with Sharp and Powerchip Technology, it added. The stake would be worth some AY=50 billion ($479 million).

The iPhone maker wants to complete the transfer of the company by summer and retain most of its employees in Japan, Nikkei said. The joint venture has roughly one-third of the global market for drivers and controllers of small and mid-size LCDs, it added.

A spokeswoman for Renesas Electronics said the company had no comment on the report. Apple in Japan did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the report.

The report of the talks follows a Kyodo News report in early February that said Renesas Electronics is planning to sell all its shares in Renesas SP Drivers as part of restructuring its business.

Renesas Electronics said at the time that such media reports could not be confirmed or regarded as fact.

Headquartered in Tokyo, Renesas SP Drivers was established in 2008 and has some 240 employees. Its recent products have included the R63319, described as a liquid crystal driver for high-definition low-temperature poly-silicon (LTPS) panels. The driver is billed as having lower power consumption, displaying high-quality images and being ideal for smartphones.

That sort of technology could help Apple gain an edge in the fierce competition for global market share in smartphones.

Samsung continued to dominate the market in 2013 with 31.3 percent market share in smartphones compared to Apple's 15.3 percent, according to an IDC study released in January. The leading vendors were followed by Huawei at 4.9 percent, LG at 4.8 percent, and Lenovo at 4.5 percent.

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