May 15, 2018 / 6:57 AM / 9 months ago

UPDATE 1-Japan Display's annual net loss jumps nearly eight-fold to $2.3 bln

* 2017/18 net loss 247.2 bln yen vs market view 222 bln yen loss

* Does not forecast profit number but sees 2018/19 profit (Adds comment on outlook, background)

TOKYO, May 15 (Reuters) - Smartphone screen maker Japan Display Inc reported an annual net loss of about $2.25 billion, its biggest, highlighting the Apple Inc supplier's struggle to regain competitiveness against Asian rivals.

Japan Display said on Tuesday it lost a net 247.2 billion yen ($2.25 billion) in the year through March. That was nearly eight times the 31.7 billion yen loss a year earlier and steeper than the market's average forecast for a 222 billion yen loss, according to Thomson Reuters data.

It was its fourth straight year of losses, as growing competition from Asian rivals aggravated the impact of slower demand from smartphone makers.

The company did not give a standard forecast for the current fiscal year, although it did say it was aiming to return to profit in the current year with sales growing around 10 to 20 percent. Markets, however, forecast a loss of 15 billion yen.

The company's troubles stem in part from its delayed adoption of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens that cost the display maker orders from Apple.

The U.S. tech giant, which has accounted for over half of Japan Display's sales, opted for OLED screens in its latest high-end iPhone X and bought them from Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

Japan Display has said it wants to start mass-producing OLED screens to better compete with Samsung, and that it needs a partner who can help finance that effort. Analysts have said it will need more than 200 billion yen to launch a mass production line for OLED screens.

It said in April that it would raise $518 million through a new share issue and an asset sale, but the move is widely seen as a stop-gap measure and the company is still seeking a capital partner.

Japan Display was formed in 2012 by combining the LCD businesses of Hitachi Ltd, Toshiba Corp and Sony Corp in a deal brokered by the state-backed Innovation Network Corp of Japan (INCJ), its biggest investor. ($1 = 109.8600 yen) (Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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