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Apple may drop $1 billion in Sharp LCD plant, report says

The expected investment would come as Apple and Samsung, a key supplier of the iPhone components, continue to battle it out in court over patents.

Will Sharp supply LCDs to Apple?
Will Sharp supply LCDs to Apple?

Apple is planning to invest $1 billion in a Sharp LCD plant, Reuters is reporting.

For several months, rumors have swirled that Apple is looking to invest heavily in Sharp's LCD plant. So far, however, the companies have not publicly said that they will, in fact, work together.

According to the news service, Apple's expected investment in Sharp's LCD plant stems from its desire to secure displays for its iPhones and iPads while limiting its reliance upon any single supplier. One such supplier, according to Reuters, is Samsung.

Apple and Samsung are currently waging a bloody patent battle spanning several continents and courtrooms. Samsung has alleged that Apple's iPhone and iPad violate patents it holds, while Apple has charged Samsung with doing the same in its own mobile products.

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So far, however, Apple has gained an early lead. In Australia, the iPhone maker has signed a deal with Samsung that will require it to approve the version of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 that will be sold in that country. And earlier this month, Apple won a preliminary injunction against Samsung that blocked the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in every European Union country, except for the Netherlands. Yesterday, however, that was overturned by a German court, at least until an August 25 hearing.

That legal jostling is forcing Apple to rethink its supplier relationships, Reuters is reporting, citing sources. And because of that, the news service says, chipmakers Elpida Memory and Toshiba, in addition to Sharp, could benefit.

If Apple does invest in Sharp's LCD plant, it reportedly wouldn't be the first time the company has given cash to suppliers for LCD display production. Back in December, Japanese business news outlet Nikkei reported that Apple anted up $1.2 billion for a Toshiba LCD plant on which construction was to start earlier this year in Japan. Once the plant hits capacity, it's expected to crank out 17 million LCD displays each month.

Neither Apple nor Sharp immediately responded to request for comment.