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Friday, July 20, 2018
Foxconn Breaks Ground in In Wisconsin Plant, Looks at AI and Beyond Apple

The chairman of Foxconn Technology Group, Terry Gou, seems to have managed to "protect" his company and the assembler of iPhones from the tariff war between China and the U.S., by strengthening ties with the west and a $10 billion liquid crystal display factory complex in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin.

The groundbreaking ceremony on June 28 for the company's $10 billion liquid crystal display factory complex in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin was designed to highlight the move to bring manufacturing jobs back to the country.

U.S. President Donald Trump attended the event and praised Gou as "a friend of mine, one of the most successful businessmen in the world."

Taiwan-based Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, says the project will create 13,000 jobs with an average salary of $54,000 a year.

Masayoshi Son, the founder of SoftBank Group of Japan, also showed up at the ceremony.

The Wisconsin plant is an apparent win for Gou in marketing his manufacturing company, which earns more than 50% of its revenue from assembling iPhones and MacBooks for Apple at its facilities in mainland China.

Foxconn's move is significant for the U.S and for Trump to cut heavy reliance on China for the electronics manufacturing sector.

In the meantime, Gou has not forgotten to please Beijing and continually show his commitment to continue investing in China, where most of the company's manufacturing sites are based.

Weeks before heading to Wisconsin, Foxconn held a three-day celebration to promote its 30th anniversary of investment in China. On June 8, Foxconn Industrial Internet -- a unit that makes smartphone components, cloud service equipment and industrial robots -- made its debut on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

There have been other recent investments, too. Sakai Display Product, a joint venture between Foxconn and Sharp, in December 2016 signed a 61 billion yuan ($9.1 billion) deal with the city of Guangzhou in southern China to build a 10.5-generation LCD plant. It is scheduled to begin production in 2019.

A week after Foxconn's landmark groundbreaking ceremony in Wisconsin, Gou received an enthusiastic welcome in Silicon Valley when he delivered a talk at Stanford University on artificial intelligence, an important area of development in both the U.S. and China.

The Stanford speech underscored Gou's continuing efforts to transform his company from a low-end contract manufacturer into an AI and data-centric company -- and to slash its reliance on Apple.

Gou has been guiding his company to diversify its business portfolio for years, extending its reach from upstream supply chains to electronics brands to meet consumer demand. A Foxconn subsidiary acquired Microsoft's feature, or entry-level, phone business and the right to use the Nokia brand in 2016. It also purchased a stake in Sharp of Japan that same year. In March this year, a Foxconn subsidiary announced plans to buy Belkin of the U.S., which owns Linksys and Wemo. In June, Foxconn and its flat panel unit Innolux said they would purchase stakes in U.S. television brand Vizio.

Gou confirmed two months ago that Foxconn would make its own semiconductors even though the company's chip business is still small.

Foxconn's moves to make more key components -- including advanced displays, semiconductors, electric car parts and 5G connectivity gears -- are all efforts to cut its reliance on Apple. However, those ventures have not yet yielded substantial fruit.

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