Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi, three of Japan's biggest electronics makers, have announced plans to merge their small and medium-sized LCD panel operations into a single entity called Japan Display. According to the Wall Street Journal, the new venture is likely to hold at least 20% of the market for panels used in smartphones and other digital gadgets, leapfrogging past current leaders Sharp of Japan and Samsung Electronics of South Korea.

Last year that duo held 14.8% and 11.9% of the market each, according to DisplaySearch, while Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi were sitting at 6%, 9.2% and 6.3% respectively.

The government-backed investment fund Innovation Network Corp. of Japan (INCJ) will own 70% of Japan Display after a 200 billion yen ($2.6 billion) investment, while Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi will split the remaining 30% in equal parts.

"By integrating each partner company's wealth of display expertise and knowhow, I am confident the new company will become a driving force for technological innovation and new growth in the rapidly expanding small-and-medium-sized display market," said Howard Stringer, Sony chief executive.

Japan Display hasn't decided on where to base its production hub, but it will reportedly invest in new production lines and the development of thinner and higher-resolution OLED displays. If everything goes according to planned the merger will be completed in the spring of 2012 and will begin selling shares in an IPO by March 2016.