Rumor: Foxconn to Build Display Factory in the USA?

The iTechPost and are both reporting on a rumor that Foxconn is planning or at least considering building a LCD factory in the USA. Both articles relate to an informal statement by an unnamed Sharp employee. Going further back to the source of this rumor it actually goes back to a Sharp executive that told Nikkei, that this plan is really being investigated as a potential investment offer from Foxconn to overcome potential duty restrictions for parts made by Foxconn in China and imported into the USA. The executive was quoted as saying, “the plan is on the table. “We will make a decision carefully.”

The article quotes a meeting between Softbank Chairman Masatoshi Son and US President-elect Donald Trump in December 2016 as the time when this idea was presented. There was no statement reported on how the idea was received. The total investment volume would reach around $8 billion or about the same as the newest LCD fab Foxconn is building in China. The LCD panels would actually being made for TVs and appliances, with a possibility to also make panels for mobile devices at a later state.

Analyst Comment

About 6 months ago I would have written about this with a clear message of this being very close to a April’s Fools joke. To be clear, we are talking about a LCD (why not OLED?) factory not just a glass factory as some of the articles suggest. Corning has the glass factory market covered for a long time. They may have to fire up those old overflow fusion lines in Kentucky if this becomes a reality. The technicalities of such an endeavor would be very interesting to observe.

Some time ago we reported on Apple asking their iPhone suppliers if they could move at least part of their manufacturing lines to the USA. Foxconn said they would investigate the possibility and maybe this offer is part of a deal they want to put on the table for the incoming government. When Steve Jobs was pressed to do the same by an earlier government, the main argument against such a move was the lack of manufacturing engineers in the USA. I doubt that this has changed since then. So what does this mean for the operation of such a factory? Maybe we will see a new influx of engineers from China into the US to run the factory. Quite an interesting development indeed that does not make any sense at this time. (NH)

Given that Foxconn is already in the process of automating as much as possible of its manufacturing, it’s hard to imagine many jobs following this kind of move. My own view is that this is just a marketing story. (BR)