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Apple in talks to buy Japanese chipmaker, report says

Apple may be looking to acquire a unit of Renesas Electronics that makes LCD chips for mobile devices, according to a Nikkei report. The deal could be worth close to half a billion dollars.

If Apple acquires Renesas SP, it would gain needed expertise in controlling display quality for smartphones. Apple

Apple is "looking into" acquiring controlling interest in the unit of a Japan-based chipmaker that makes display-related chips for smartphones, according to Japan's largest business daily.

Apple is eying a unit of Renesas Electronics, according to a Nikkei report that appeared in the Wednesday edition of Nikkei Asian Review. The US company would take over Renesas SP Drivers, a unit that designs chips for smartphone displays and could help Apple "improve image sharpness and battery life," according to the report.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Renesas SP Drivers is a joint venture between Renesas, Sharp, and Taiwan's Powerchip. Apple would acquire Renesas's entire 55 percent stake for about 50 billion yen ($479 million), Nikkei reported. If a deal is struck with Renesas, Sharp would sell all its shares in Renesas SP Drivers to Apple if requested, the report claimed.

Sharp owns 25 percent of the venture and Powerchip, which handles manufacturing, holds the remaining 20 percent.

Renesas SP Drivers is a leading supplier of driver and controller chips for small and midsize LCDs, with a share of about one-third of the global market, according to Nikkei. Display driver and controller chips play a key role in the display's quality, performance, and power efficiency.

"With its share of the smartphone market slipping, Apple seems to want to bring this core technology in-house rather than cede development to [a] supplier," the newspaper said.

Indeed Apple is bringing more and more chip expertise in house and becoming a chip giant in its own right.

Apple has bought a host of chip-related companies to date, including PA Semi, which designed and sold semiconductors, and Intrinsity, a designer of ARM processor cores. Both of those chip companies have allowed Apple to move processor design expertise in-house. The fruits of which can be seen in cutting-edge silicon like the 64-bit A7 that powers the iPhone 5S, iPad Air, and iPad Mini Retina.

In 2012, Apple acquired Israel-based flash memory startup Anobit, and more recently it purchased PrimeSense, the 3D-sensor company behind Microsoft's Kinect sensor.

Apple shares are up slightly to $540.50 in trading Tuesday afternoon.

Update, 3:07 p.m. PT: Added background on Apple's chipmaker acquisitions.