Panasonic falls as revival plan disappoints investors

Bloomberg

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 - Page 15

Panasonic Corp, heading for a second annual loss, will keep its unprofitable television and mobile phone operations in reforms that disappointed investors expecting a quicker revamp. Shares fell the most in five months.

The reform plan “seems to lack in speed,” said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management Co.

Japan’s No. 2 TV maker expects to make its TV business profitable by March 2016, Panasonic Corp president Kazuhiro Tsuga told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday, after the market had closed.

Tsuga, whose target for making money from TVs lags two years behind that of larger rival Sony Corp, intends to boost operating income to ¥350 billion (US$3.7 billion) in the year to March 2016 from ¥43.7 billion last year.

“Targets appear to be lower than levels priced into the stock,” Masahiro Ono, an analyst at Morgan Stanley MUFG Securities Co in Tokyo, said in a report yesterday.

“Tsuga’s remarks, while outlining targets and how they would be reached, didn’t refer to timing or scale of practical execution,” he said.

Panasonic’s plasma TVs have lost market share as consumer shift toward liquid-crystal display sets, while its mobile phone unit has failed to gain customers outside Japan.

Panasonic fell 7.1 percent to close at ¥654 yesterday, the biggest decline since Nov. 1, narrowing its gain this year to 25 percent.

The stock was the biggest decliner among members of Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average, which rose 0.5 percent yesterday, capping its best back-to-back quarterly performance since 1972.

Panasonic expects the revamp to cost ¥250 billion in the three years starting next week and to eliminate losses in TVs, semiconductors, mobile phones, circuit boards and optical devices, it said on Thursday.

Worldwide shipments of plasma TVs are expected to fall to 9.5 million units this year from 13.2 million last year, according to DisplaySearch. That compares with 216 million LCD TVs expected to be sold in the period, according to the Santa Clara, California-based research company.

Net income will probably be ¥50 billion next fiscal year, with operating profit of ¥250 billion, the company said.

The forecast compares with the ¥240 billion average of 16 analyst estimates for operating profit compiled by Bloomberg.

Panasonic, Sony and Sharp Corp all posted record losses last fiscal year amid sluggish demand and competition from South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co and LG Electronics Inc, the world’s two-largest TV makers.