S. Korean, Japan firms plan US$72 mil joint venture


SEOUL–South Korea’s Samsung LED and Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical said Monday they would form a joint venture to produce sapphire wafers, a key material in the manufacture of flat-screen electronic displays. The 50-50 joint venture will be capitalized at 80 billion won (US$72 million) and start production of sapphire ingots and wafers from early next year, Samsung LED said in a statement.

The company, an affiliate of Samsung Electronics, said the deal is expected to help it secure supplies and meet the rising demand for light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

The deal comes amid market concerns about a global shortage of wafers after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Research firm IHS iSuppli said the disaster led to the suspension of a quarter of the global production of silicon wafers, which are used to make semiconductors.

But a Sumitomo Chemical spokesman quoted by Dow Jones Newswires said the planned tie-up was unrelated to the quake and tsunami. “Sapphire ingot is a very important component for making wafers used in LEDs, but its price rose sharply last year so we did see only a limited supply of the material,” a Samsung LED spokesman said.