NEC, Casio and Hitachi make cell phone op merger official, want to go international

The first rumors started spreading about two weeks ago, and it was officially announced yesterday: Major Japanese cell phone makers Hitachi, NEC and Casio are merging their mobile phone operations to become Japan’s No. 2 maker (following Sharp). The name of the new venture will be “NEC Casio Mobile Communications”.

The merger will shrink the number of Japanese mobile phone makers from eight to six: NEC Casio Mobile Communications, Sharp, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Panasonic and Kyocera. The new company will control just over 20% of Japan’s 100 million handset market, following Sharp’s 21.8% share.

The integration will take place in April 2010. NEC will take over a 66% stake, with Casio and Hitachi owning 17.34% and 16.66%, respectively.

And today, it came to light the new company aims at cracking certain cell phone markets outside Japan, too. Major shareholder NEC in particular is said to be interested in going international before launching LTE, as the Japanese home market is shrinking rapidly.

In fiscal 2012, NEC Casio Mobile Communications intends to sell 7 million phones in Japan and 5 million in other markets (two to three times more than now). NEC gave up its cell phone distribution network in Europe and China in 2006.