Sharp Corporation is a Japanese multinational corporation that designs and manufactures electronic products. Headquartered in Abeno-ku, Osaka, Japan, Sharp employed around 55,580 people worldwide as of June 2011. The company was founded in September 1912 and takes its name from one of its founder's first inventions, the Ever-Sharp mechanical pencil, which was invented by Tokuji Hayakawa in 1915. Sharp Corporation is the fifth-largest television manufacturer in the world, after Samsung, LG, Sony, and Panasonic.
Since 2000, Sharp has heavily invested in LCD panel manufacturing plants; Kameyama in 2004, Sakai in 2009. The Sakai plant is still the only 10th generation LCD manufacturing plant on the globe and best fit for production of 60 inch or larger panels. However, the 2008 financial crisis and strong Yen significantly lowered world demand for Japanese LCD panels. Furthermore, the switch to digital TV broadcasting was virtually completed in Japan by the middle of 2011. Via Japanese government issued coupons for digital TV sets, consumers were encouraged to purchase digital TV sets until March 2011. This crippled the Japanese LCD TV market, reducing it almost by half from 2010. All of those events strongly hit Sharp's LCD business. As the result, the Sakai LCD plant suffered a very low operating rate until Fall 2012.