Sharp and Foxconn agreed on Friday to extend a deadline for takeover talks by one to two weeks, a person familiar with the matter said, after the Taiwanese firm had put the deal on hold to clarify "new material information".
Sharp, a loss-making Japanese display maker, announced on Thursday it had decided to sell a two-thirds stake to Foxconn, in a deal worth an estimated US$5.8 billion.
But Foxconn, the world's largest contract maker of electronic goods and a major supplier to Apple, paused signing off on the deal after receiving new information from Sharp.
Shares in Sharp slid 11 percent on Friday after sources said the delay was over previously undisclosed liabilities of around 300 billion yen (US$2.7 billion).
In a brief statement late on Friday, Foxconn said: "Most of the contents of the material information Foxconn received on Wednesday morning, before Sharp’s board meeting began on Thursday, had not been previously proposed nor offered during negotiations between the two sides."
It added that both sides were consulting on the matter "with the aim of reaching a comprehensive understanding and resolution of the situation. We hope to reach a satisfactory agreement as soon as possible."
Foxconn founder Terry Gou and Sharp CEO Kozo Takahashi met in China, said another person familiar with the matter. Neither company confirmed those talks.
The late hitch has thrown into doubt Foxconn's quest to gain Sharp's advanced screen technology and strengthen its hand with major client Apple. A deal would also signal the opening up of Japan's insular tech sector to foreign investment.
At 300 billion yen, Sharp's contingent liabilities would be almost double its 160 billion yen capital, and some way above the liabilities of less than 100 billion yen that Foxconn's due diligence revealed, one of the sources said.
The sources, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter, did not elaborate on the nature of the liabilities. Reuters has not seen any documents regarding the new information.
Sharp said in a statement earlier on Friday that it has been disclosing its contingent liabilities properly.
Jefferies analyst Atul Goyal said the entire deal was in jeopardy. "This is especially so given the dramatic back and forth that happened between Sharp and Foxconn in 2012, when Foxconn agreed to acquire a stake in Sharp but then later walked away," he wrote in a note to clients.
Sharp's creditor banks have said they were also not aware of the size of the contingent liabilities until the last minute, separate sources familiar with matter said.
Mizuho Financial Group Inc's Mizuho Bank and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc's Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ both declined comment.
The plunge in Sharp shares added to losses a day earlier that came as planned share dilution under the deal looked larger than expected. The stock has lost nearly a quarter of its value in two days. Foxconn closed down 0.6 percent on Friday.
Aiming for Apple business
In a 31-page filing, Sharp said it would issue around US$4.4 billion worth of new shares to give Foxconn a two-thirds holding. Foxconn's investment is set to total more than 650 billion yen (US$5.8 billion), a source familiar with the matter has said.
Gou has spent roughly five years courting Sharp and if a deal goes through, it would boost Foxconn's position as Apple's main contract manufacturer.
It would also enable Sharp to start mass-producing organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens by 2018, around the time Apple is expected to adopt the next-generation displays for its iPhones.
Bringing Sharp under Foxconn's umbrella could help Apple wean itself off rival Samsung as a supplier.
OLED screens are thinner, lighter and more flexible than current displays. South Korea's Samsung Display and LG Display are also investing heavily in the new technology.
But efforts to patch up the deal could be impeded by lingering distrust over the collapse of a 2012 deal to form capital ties. That distrust was one reason why some Sharp officials had preferred a lower offer by the state-backed Innovation Network Corp of Japan (INCJ), sources said.
Reporting by Ritsuko Ando and JR Wu, with additional reporting by Chris Gallagher and Makiko Yamazaki in Tokyo; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Ian Geoghegan