Sharp: Surprise over Foxconn nod, Energy Solutions segment reports biggest revenue drop

News has emerged today from various sources, including Japanese broadcasting station NHK and Bloomberg, that Sharp has given preferred negotiating rights to Taiwan-based Foxconn, after it upped its takeover bid to $5.9 billion. A decision on whether to accept is expected to be made within the month.

Speculation had been rife that the struggling Japanese electronics company would opt for state-backed INCJ’s rescue offer. Indeed, while it was less than half of Foxconn’s, at roughly JPY 300 billion (around $2.49 billion), taking it would have meant Sharp remained in Japanese hands. This now appears unlikely.

Rumors also recently stated that under INCJ, Sharp’s solar PV business would be integrated with Japanese thin film pioneer, Solar Frontier. Responding to pv magazine, a spokesperson for Solar Frontier said on Tuesday, "We haven’t received a concrete proposal so aren’t in a position to comment on it. If such a proposal were beneficial to our ongoing growth strategy, however, we would be open to considering it."

Energy Solutions pulls losses down

Representing the biggest loss for the first nine months to December 31, was Sharp’s Energy Solutions division, formerly named Solar Cells, which recorded a -42.2% sales decrease. Sales fell from JPY 196.6 billion in 2014, to JPY 113.6 billion (Q3: JPY 34.5 billion).

Despite seeing repeated losses in the segment, thus prompting speculation last year that it would shed its solar division, Sharp said last March that it forecast a loss of just JPY 5 billion (US$42 million) for the unit in its fiscal year ending March 31, and planned to return to profit in its next fiscal year. This now seems unlikely, given the latest round of losses.

Overall, the company has seen its net loss for the nine months ending December 31, significantly slip, from JPY 5.6 billion in 2014 to JPY 106.1 billion (around US$902.5 million). Net sales recorded a 7.1% fall to JPY 1.9 billion, from JPY 2.09 billion the previous year. Domestic sales were badly affected, falling 23.2%, while overseas saw an increase of 1.6%.

China is the most important overseas market for Sharp, accounting for over 60% of sales, while the Americas comes in second, at just over 17%.

A forecast for the FY net income/loss attributable to Sharp Corp. will only be made when it can assess the impact of its structural reforms, currently underway, said Sharp in its earnings release.