Electrical machinery maker Toshiba Corp. said Thursday it has raised its stake in U.S. wireless product distributor Audiovox Communications Corp. as a step toward expanding its mobile phone business in the North American market.

Under the deal, struck Wednesday with the New York-based ACC’s parent firm, Audiovox Corp., Toshiba raised its stake in ACC to 25 percent from 5 percent.

ACC is the No. 2 supplier of mobile phone handsets based on code division multiple access in North America, Toshiba said. It has supplied CDMA handsets under the company’s name since 1999, when it acquired the 5 percent stake.

The deal will allow Toshiba to send a director to ACC’s board to work more closely in product planning and marketing. It will also provide ACC with exclusive rights to sell Toshiba mobile phone handsets in North and South America.

ACC is expected to begin selling Toshiba products, particularly CDMA terminals, next year.

The two companies will cooperate in marketing and product development for the North American market and also work together on expanding their business in Latin America, it said.

Toshiba estimates that more than 30 million CDMA handsets were sold in North America in 2001 and predicts the market will grow to almost 60 million in 2004.

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