Toshiba closes TV operations in Japan, sells out to China’s Hisense

Most recent entries into the video market won’t remember to pomp and heyday of Toshiba in the TV device market, but today it finally crashed out of it, caught by the same economic cycle that has reduced Sony to a part player in the TV market and strangled Panasonic’s once strong brand as well, which took in dominance of the plasma form factor – which remains making TVs but using LG LCD panels.

Over the years Chinese and Japanese groups have bought out Technicolor (as was Thompson at the time) and Philips out of the TV market. Most of this was because of the ramp in flat TV screens, with initially Korean manufacturers Samsung and LG taking the market and dropping prices dramatically, and now Chinese players doing much the same.

China’s Hisense Electric is the buyer, paying the equivalent of $110 million to buy 95% of the shares in subsidiary Toshiba Visual Solutions with Toshiba retaining 5%. Hisense will get all production, R&D, and sales functions as well as a license to use the Toshiba brand for a period of 40 years for visual systems in Europe, South East Asia and other markets. In January 2015 Toshiba licensed the brand in the US and a few other markets to Taiwan’s Compal Electronics.

The deal includes two Japanese factories and hundreds of Toshiba R&D employees as well as a significant IP portfolio relating to TV patents.

Hisense will also support Toshiba in display technology, and provide competitive content operation services for smart TVs and chase a fast recovery in the Japanese market.

Toshiba was the number 3 supplier in Japan TV and the two both held around 20% there between them. Hisense on its own was ranked as the third largest in the world according to IHS, and has been the leading supplier in its native China for 13 consecutive years.

Hisense has been quietly buying up similar rights over the years and in 2015 bought out Sharp in the US, in much the same way after Sharp pulled out of first Europe, then the US, a year apart. Sharp was then sold to Foxconn which still makes TVs for the Japanese market. Sharp took out a legal action against Hisense in the US, citing shoddy workmanship which was hurting its brand. As far as we know this case is continuing and has not been settled.