Panasonic’s industrial focus pays off

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br PANASONIC-EARNINGS Reuters Shoppers consider Panasonic's Viera television sets at a store in Tokyo. The company's operating profit more than tripled in the quarter to December as its restructuring progressed. Photo: Reuters

Tokyo - The quarterly earnings of Panasonic more than tripled, the company said yesterday, extending its renaissance as a maker of hi-tech parts for cars and energy-efficient homes with few qualms about selling off legacy businesses that once dragged it into losses.

The Japanese firm said operating profit surged to ¥116.6 billion (R13bn) in the three months to December. It also signalled it was nearing the end of its long-running restructuring, striking a deal to sell microchip assembly plants in south-east Asia to a unit of Singapore’s UTAC Holdings.

Panasonic is emerging from a period of heavy losses across Japan’s consumer electronics industry, squeezed by competition from aggressive rivals like Samsung Electronics. After losing $15bn (R167bn) over the previous two years, Panasonic’s reinvention of itself as a force in car making and homebuilding, rather than televisions or smartphones, means it is forging ahead of peers like Sony in the restructuring game.

“We see Panasonic emerging as a transformation champion… beyond restructuring, Panasonic looks positioned to emerge as a strong corporate leader,” Atul Goyal, an analyst at Jefferies in Singapore, said in a note issued to clients ahead of the earnings report.

The group’s quarterly net profit grew to ¥73.7bn from ¥61.4bn a year earlier.

Under president Kazuhiro Tsuga, Panasonic has been shifting away from consumer-oriented sectors and embracing business clients instead. While selling off its health-care arm and semiconductor operations, it is restructuring its television operations, where losses narrowed to ¥8.1bn from ¥25.5bn.

By contrast, its automotive and industrial systems division posted ¥28.2bn in profit, while its eco solutions segment earned ¥32.1bn. Both serve sectors that have benefited from reflationary policies and a weaker yen under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. – Reuters

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