Sony spins-off Field Emission Technologies, looks to acquire Pioneer's plasma panel factory in Japan

Pioneer Corporation has initiated talks in order to offload its plasma display panel (PDP) factory to a flat panel developer, Field Emission Technologies Inc., funded by Sony Corporation. The factory in Kagoshima Prefecture, southern Japan, is scheduled to stop PDP production in January next year.

Though the value of the deal is yet to be agreed upon, sources indicate that a sale is possible around the range of 20 billion to 30 billion yen, or between $188.5 million to $282.7 million. Pioneer is said to be backing out from plasma panel production. It will instead source panels from Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd., which is ranked at the top slot as a plasma TV maker.

Sources also said that some of the factory's 600 workers might be hired by the acquiring company. Field Emission Technologies develops field emission displays (FED) for next-generation flat-screen television sets, and was spun off from Sony in December 2006. Sony owns 37.8 per cent of the company, with the remaining held by investment funds.

The company has already established a mass FED production technology, and is now seeking a  production foothold, hoping to start full output by the end of 2009.

Field emission display (FED) panels offer clearer video quality. Unlike LCDs, which require backlighting, FED panels use he same light-emitting principles as cathode-ray tubes,  which makes them twice as energy-efficient as current LCD panels

Around a year ago, Sony had launched the the world's first OLED television – the XEL-1, which measured 11-inches across the diagonal. Now, the FED panels will represent a completely new line.

The new panels are more capable of recreating natural colours and offer fast-moving images without blurring, making them ideally suited as displays for medical and other professional monitors, and for  high-end televisions.

With an initial likely volume of 10,000 units a month of 26-inch FED panels annually, the plant would supply displays to medical and broadcasting equipment manufacturers by 2009, after which the company is aiming at the television market with 60-inch panels, if the Pioneer factory acquisition goes through.