Wed, May 30, 2012 - Page 10 News List

Panasonic may cut number of HQ staff by half, reports say

ROCK AND HARD PLACE:Panasonic is being doubly constrained by the rising yen and increasingly fierce competition from products by Apple and Samsung

AFP, TOKYO

Panasonic may halve its 7,000-strong headquarters as part of a bid to streamline the Japanese electronics giant and turn a profit following a record annual loss, media reports said yesterday.

The Osaka-based firm is looking at shrinking its main office by between 3,000 and 4,000 staff, mainly through early retirements and employee transfers to subsidiaries, the Nikkei business daily and Jiji Press reported.

Talks with labor unions on the changes are expected to begin as early as July, the Nikkei said, adding that the move was partly aimed at speeding up decisionmaking at the headquarters.

A Panasonic spokeswoman said: “The reports were not something that our company has announced. We are considering reforms of the headquarters, but it’s not true that we have reached a decision now.”

The company posted a record ¥772.2 billion (US$9.7 billion) loss for the fiscal year to last March, although it has said it expects to book a net profit of ¥50 billion in the current year.

Panasonic, like its rival Sony, which posted a record ¥456.66 billion annual loss, has long suffered in its television business and its debt also soared because of the purchase of smaller rival Sanyo.

Panasonic president Fumio Ohtsubo has previously announced he would step down following the massive losses, which sent the company’s shares to 30-year lows.

Japan’s electronics sector has been badly hit by the appreciation of the yen, while falling prices and slow demand at home have also eaten into profits. Meanwhile, competitors, including South Korea’s Samsung and US-based Apple, are offering stiff competition.

Panasonic has already announced a major restructuring of its LCD manufacturing division, and is reportedly considering shifting all of its mobile phone handset production overseas amid high costs at home.

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