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TVS & LARGE DISPLAY / INDUSTRY

Sharp Facing A Grim Future As Samsung Circles Assets

By David Richards | Tuesday | 26/03/2013

20 years ago Japanese brands Sharp and Sanyo dominated in the Australian consumer electronics market, their TV's and appliances were seen as leading edge technology.

Today the Sanyo brand along with their consumer electronics products range have been dumped by Panasonic who acquired the Company last year, Now Sharp is struggling to survive despite a good year in Australia last year.

Globally Sharp is facing a torrid future , with several big Companies now circling the struggling Company who are desperate to secure a cash injection ahead of looming financing deadlines which if not met could see the Company placed into Chapter 11 administration.

Sharp has interest-bearing debt of $12.4 billion, or more than seven times the amount of cash on hand. Their stock is down more than 50% from a year earlier, despite significant gains in Japanese stocks overall.

Sharp said it has sold its Tokyo office buildings, while scaling back production at two domestic manufacturing sites. It has also announced plans to cut 5,000 jobs globally, the first layoffs to hit its domestic workforce since 1950. It also cut salaries and scaled back investments.

9 months ago Sharp Australia moved into the large screen TV market ahead of brands like LG and Samsung, success followed with consumers snapping up their 80" TV's right across Australia also popular are the Companies steam ovens and appliances. 

 Observers claim that Sharps global options have shrunk in recent days, as management struggles to find a solution to their cash crisis.

According to the Wall Street Journal complicating Sharp's attempts to survive increasingly dire finances, two former presidents have joined current President Takashi Okuda in seeking to negotiate deals with different sets of possible investors, creating confusion among creditors and potential investors about who is in charge at this critical moment.

"It's not clear who is at the helm," said an official at one of Sharp's lenders. "The company's governance is not functioning as it should."

Recently both Samsung Electronics and Qualcomm acquired minor stakes each worth about $106 million in the struggling Company.

Analysts claim that Sharp needs to raise significantly more money to bolster its debt-saddled balance sheet.

One of the few options open to Sharp, according to people familiar with the situation, is taking a deal from private-equity funds that have tougher requirements than industry peers.

One potential source of capital was Apple partner Foxconn but that deal fell apart in August of 2012.

Sharp's lenders are already urging the company's management to be more aggressive about selling assets or businesses. But Sharp executives are more focused on securing additional capital before taking more drastic restructuring measures, according to people familiar with the talks between Sharp and the banks.

Recently Sharp turned down Samsung's offer to buy its copier business as part of the capital-alliance talks, "While we had previously expressed an interest in Sharp's copier business, Sharp has rejected our interest in this matter," said Samsung in a statement. Sharp said it decided to hold on to the unit because it remains an attractive business.

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