OSAKA – Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Chairman Terry Gou took a step forward in the hotly contested battle for control of Sharp Corp., winning an agreement to become the preferred negotiating partner for a bailout of the struggling consumer electronics maker.
Gou spoke outside the Sharp headquarters in Osaka after a meeting that stretched hours past its planned completion. He held up a paper with his own signature and that of Sharp Chief Executive Officer Kozo Takahashi and said he expects to have a final agreement by the end of February.
“We are 90 percent there, the remaining 10 percent are legal matters and are not a big deal,” he told reporters, speaking in Chinese with a Japanese translator. “There will be no breakup of Sharp. I guarantee that the Sharp brand will go on.”
Gou made the last-minute trip to Japan to step up pressure on the company to quickly accept his proposed bid, after Takahashi said Thursday he planned to take another month to choose between Hon Hai, also known as Foxconn Technology Group, and the rival bidder, state-backed Innovation Network Corp. of Japan.
The stock gained 10 percent to ¥176 at the close in Tokyo trading, after climbing 17 percent Thursday.
Takahashi told reporters Thursday neither of the potential partners is preferred over the other at that point, contradicting several media reports. He was questioned repeatedly about whether one bidder was favored over the other and refused to concede the point.
“Both parties are on the same footing,” Takahashi said that day. A Sharp spokesman declined to comment after Gou’s remarks.
Gou has pushed hard for a deal even as it looked unlikely he would win. Sharp had been inclined to take the bid from government-backed INCJ, which offered about ¥300 billion, people familiar with the matter said last month. But then Gou raised his bid from ¥600 billion to about ¥660 billion and flew to Japan to make a personal appeal to Sharp’s board, its banks and government officials, a person familiar with the matter has said.
As recently as Jan. 31, Gou said he was confident of winning the bid and had no need to go back to Osaka this week, leaving the deal to his staff to work out. His return Friday was unscheduled.