Apple Inc may invest $1 billion in panel maker Sharp Corp's Kameyama factory in western Japan to secure a supply of screens for iPhones and iPads, MF Global FXA Securities wrote in a sales note on Wednesday.
Sources said the move, along with a similar investment in a new Toshiba Corp factory also in western Japan, stems from Apple's desire to wean itself from dependence on Samsung Electronics , with which it has a patent dispute.
Officials at Sharp, which faces competition from cheaper panels made by rivals including LG Electronics and Samsung, could not be immediately reached as it was closed for summer holidays.
A likely investment amount of around 100 billion yen ($1.3 billion) has been reported in Japanese media since late last year.
Sharp has clinched a contract with Apple to supply power-efficient screens for the sixth-generation iPhone, to launch in 2012, sources have said.
"We think it is highly possible that Apple will make an investment in Sharp's Kameyama plant to the tune of around $1 billion in order to secure a stable supply of screens for iPhones and iPads," analyst David Rubenstein said in the note.
"This would have a material impact on Sharp's profitability."
Sharp said in June that it would switch most production at one of its main TV panel plants to making small and medium-sized panels to meet demand for smartphones and tablets.
Shares in Sharp were up 1.4 percent compared with an 0.8 percent fall in Tokyo's electrical machinery subindex