Rohm and Haas Co. is building its footprint in flat-panel screens with an April 18 agreement to acquire Eastman Kodak Co.'s light management films business and a plan to build a high-volume facility in Asia.
The Kodak business produces films that improve brightness and efficiency of liquid crystal displays. It employs 125, most of those at a facility in Rochester, N.Y.
Terms were not disclosed. The deal is scheduled to close in the first half of 2007.
``Today's announcement is an exciting first step in building our flat-panel display technologies business,'' said Yi Hyon Paik, vice president and business group director of Rohm and Haas Electronic Materials, in a news release.
``The addition of advanced light management films complements our growing portfolio of flat-panel materials. Kodak has done a great job creating unique display films and establishing an initial market position in Asia. The technology pipeline is deep and well-positioned to meet emerging display requirements, especially in the fast-growing LCD TV market,'' he added.
Philadelphia-based Rohm and Haas said the purchase will include intellectual property associated with the light management films, including patents and trademarks, trade secrets, a portfolio of present and future products and a license for additional intellectual property. A supply of key raw materials also is included.
One line at the Rochester plant produces commercial-grade film for LCD screens up to 42 inches in width and a second line is dedicated to developing new technology, according to spokesman Ken Gedaka. Rohm and Haas expects the Kodak employees affected to continue with the films operation, about 105 in Rochester and the rest in Asia, he said.
Gedaka said once the deal is completed, Rohm and Haas will build a dedicated, high-volume manufacturing facility at an undisclosed site in Asia, with a planned opening in early 2008.
He said the new line in Asia will be for LCDs up to 50 inches wide.
``The machine is already being built, but it is a matter of where it will be shipped to,'' said Gedaka, noting the Rochester and Asian facilities are needed to meet demand.
The new business is one of several steps the company is taking to boost its electronic materials group, he said.
Light management films were developed by Kodak and their first use is in flat panels, where millions of individual lenses are arranged on a polycarbonate film. In LCDs, the film improves brightness, color consistency and viewing angle, while reducing moire, an optical abnormality common in commercial films.
``Over the last couple of years, the employees in light management films have built this from a startup business to one that is now beginning to enjoy significant commercial success and has great promise for the future,'' said Mary Jane Hellyar, Eastman Kodak's senior vice president in film products.
``To realize that promise, the business needs significant additional investment in the near term,'' Hellyar said in a news release. Rohm and Haas expressed interest in the business as Kodak considered funding options, she said.