Apple Supplier Foxconn Moves Into European TV Business Through Sharp

Foxconn has taken another major step in its ambition to expand beyond its role as a key supplier to Apple (AAPL)  in committing to the European consumer electronics business.

Sharp (SHCAY) , now a Japanese subsidiary of Foxconn, will buy two TV companies in Eastern Europe – in Slovakia and Poland — in a move that would signify its return to a business it once dominated.

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Osaka, Japan-based Sharp said Thursday it would acquire 56.7% in Cyprus-based Skytec UMC, a holding company which owns Slovakia-based Universal Media and UMC Poland, which are both involved in TV operations. The purchase comes as an extension of a business alliance Sharp had already signed with Universal Media in September and would mean the Japanese consumer electronics player is making a comeback in the arena of TV making and selling in Europe.

The announcement follows reports last week that Sharp will no longer supply LCD TV panels to South Korean rival Samsung Electronics (SSNLF) from next year, even though that meant it would lose half of its annual sales volume. The decision sparked speculation that Foxconn, through Sharp, would not only revive the loss-making Sharp, but also boost its presence as maker of end-products. There was also media speculation that Sharp and Foxconn are considering building a new LCD TV panel plant in China.

Investors will watch whether Sharp will make similar moves in other regions, including the U.S., where last year the company gave its brand license to Hisense as part of a move to restructure its North American LCD TV business.

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