Japan-based J-OLED — the company that started in 2015 through a joint venture between Panasonic, Sony and the Japanese government to develop inkjet printing technology for the manufacture of medium-sized OLED display panels, has filed for bankruptcy protection in its country, according to a report Monday from Nikkei.

The long-struggling company is to withdraw from manufacturing and sales of OLED panels and is taking steps to close two plants in Japan while laying off 280 employees, the report said.

J-OLED has listed total liabilities of 33.7 billion yen ($257 million).

According to the report, J-OLED’s hardships are symptomatic of the long decline of Japan’s display industry in the face of the relatively rapid rise of competition in South Korea and China.

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The situation in Japan ultimately forced Sony and Panasonic to pullback from the operation as JOLED realigned and recruited outside investors, including TCL’s display panel operation China Star Opto Electronics (CSOT) and LG Display. Both investors were looking for more efficient methods for the mass production of OLED displays.

Under the bankruptcy plan, J-OLED has signed a basic agreement to transfer its technology and development operations to Apple supplier Japan Display, Nikkei said.

Japan Display announced it plans to use J-OLED’s intellectual property to expand and accelerate its growth strategy.

According to Nikkei, Japan Display initially owned 15% of J-OLED before transferring that stake to state-backed INCJ in March 2020. Japan Display also has been under financial difficulties.

INCJ was JOLED’s top shareholder, with a 57% stake, and J-OLED was INCJ’s second-largest investment in its portfolio. INCJ finally decided to cut off further funding for JOLED, forcing the bankruptcy declaration.

Reportedly, J-OLED’s efforts to start up mass production of panels for PCs had been postponed by the coronavirus pandemic among other setbacks, until spring 2021. Then, at that time, J-OLED faced a global chip shortage and waning consumer demand for personal computers.

The company was never able to produce larger-sized display panels for the TV market, as it had planned.

Meanwhile, South Korean display giants Samsung and LG Display have made advancements of their own in the mass production of OLED panels for smartphones, TVs and OLED-based PC monitors.

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By Greg Tarr

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