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Look beyond the messy initial public offering of Japan Display Inc. and there’s a surprising tale in the numbers: The government helped combine three struggling businesses, restructure them to turn the combined entity profitable — and made money in the process.

The government-backed Innovation Network Corp. of Japan invested ¥200 billion in the Tokyo-based company in 2012. Sony Corp., Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd., which all lacked the scale to compete individually in the market for making smartphones and tablet displays, dumped their units into one new company.

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