Sharp’s US CEO Stressing TV Plant Shutdown In Japan Not An Indicator Of Any Larger Issue For its Pro AV Business

May 17, 2024 by Dave Haynes

Sharp’s US office was in touch after I posted a story earlier in the week that suggested the company was getting out of the TV business, hoping to reinforce that while a TV production facility in Japan is indeed being shut down,

The President and CEO for Sharp globally Wu Po-hsuan said Tuesday in Japan: “We are in a downward spiral … We can’t invest enough on our promising brand business [including consumer electronics], because Sharp’s ability to generate cash is not improving.”

But Mike Marusic, President and CEO of Sharp Imaging and Information Company, says that was a story much more specific to a 10th generation plant in the Osaka area that hasn’t been manufacturing TVs for some time, and had booked a non-operating loss of $330 million USD for Q1. That was a necessary business decision, Marusic says, but not indicative of a larger problem with the company’s fortunes or, more directly, Sharp NEC’s business in North America and Europe.

“As far as the overall strategy for Sharp, it’s actually very promising to me, because we’re going to really be focused on finished goods, branded product lines, which have always been profitable and are growing.”

Marusic notes Sharp did stop selling branded TVs in the US market. “But we are back selling, on smaller scale again, and we’re in some select retailers already. And we look to continue to grow that business. But it’s a competitive business.”

He acknowledges pro display is more lucrative than TVs, which tend to sell more on price than anything else.

Marusic also acknowledges the flat panel video wall market has been clobbered by the advent of direct view LED, but he still sees a lot of business runway for flat panel displays in digital signage and pro AV applications. “We saw a great growth last quarter, and we continue to see the opportunity there,” he says. “Our digital signage business is doing tremendous business, and the prosumer display space has really, really been doing well for us … for hospitality, bars, things like that, where the screen needs to be a step above a TV, they’ve got to run longer, but can be a step below a full-on professional display.”

He says Sharp and joint venture partner NEC, which now co-market in North America as Sharp NEC, have a pile of intellectual property for pro displays that it can apply to new designs, and the plan is to leverage that. “So the two companies have come together and we can leverage their intellectual property. They do some things, well, we do some things well … and blending those product categories together is really the goal right now.”

He also notes that “we will eventually phase out the NEC name” and just be Sharp.

Marusic says Sharp NEC’s presence next month at InfoComm will be much along the lines, in scale and product focus, of what was at ISE back in February. At that show, the marketing focus was on LED displays, flat panel collaboration displays and a new breed of color e-paper displays positioned as energy-friendly replacements for paper posters.

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