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Apple rumoured to be eyeing up Japanese display chip firm

Apple is reportedly in talks to acquire a chipmaking unit of Japan's Renesas Electronics to shore up its technological edge in designing smartphone displays for its iPhones.

The Cupertino-based company has its eyes on Renesas SP Drivers, a joint venture between Renesas, Sharp, and Taiwan-based Powerchip, according to a report from the Nikkei Asian Review. The site reported Tuesday that Apple "seems to want to bring this core technology in-house rather than cede development to the supplier as the US company has for much of its growth."

Apple would reportedly buy Renesas's 55 per cent stake in Renesas SP, which the Nikkei Asian Review described as the "world's leading producer of drivers and controllers for small and midsize LCDs," with about a 33 per cent share of the global market for those chips and technologies.

The price of the acquisition would be in the neighbourhood of $480 million (£289 million), according to the site.

The deal would supposedly be closed by this summer. If completed, Sharp would reportedly be open to selling its own 25 per cent stake in Renesas SP for an unspecified amount.

Powerchip is the manufacturing partner in the joint venture and owns 20 per cent of the business.

The Nikkei Asian Review noted that the drivers and controllers powering mobile device displays can account for 10 per cent of battery usage.

Extending battery life through better display chip design could be a key way for Apple to claw back some smartphone market share from Samsung, which has vaulted past Apple as the world's leading maker of smartphones.

Apple has also seen its smartphone market share eroded by the combined efforts of other makers of smartphones using Google's Android operating system.

The consumer electronics giant relies on multiple suppliers around the world for the parts that go into its iOS-based devices. But there is precedence for an acquisition of this nature—Apple acquired fabless semiconductor firm P.A. Semi in 2008 to bring the design of iPhone application processors in-house.