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Tue, Feb 03, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Sharp profit rises 27% as sales of flat panels surge


Sharp Corp, Japan's biggest maker of liquid-crystal displays, said net income in the third quarter of its business year rose 27 percent on soaring demand for flat-screen televisions and computers.

Group net income rose to ?17.8 billion (US$169 million) from ?14 billion in the same period a year earlier. Sales rose 10 percent to ?580.5 billion from ?526 billion, the company said in a statement released through the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Flat-screen TVs and computer displays are among the best-selling products for Sharp and rivals such as Sony Corp and Samsung Electronics Co. Sharp plans to double annual sales of LCD panels for TV screens to 3 million units by March 2005.

"We like Sharp. It has a clear product focus," said Christian Takushi who helps manage about US$660 million in Japanese equities, including Sharp, at Swissca Portfolio Management in Zurich.

"The trouble is that Sharp is already recognized and a lot of fund managers are overweight," Sharp stuck to its full-year net income forecast of ?57 billion, because the yen's rise against the dollar may erode earnings.

"We left the full-year outlook unchanged because of uncertainty in the currency market," said Hiroshi Saji, Sharp's vice president, at a press conference in Osaka, western Japan. The yen has risen 5.2 percent against the dollar since Oct. 1. The company didn't say what impact the yen's increase may already have had on earnings.

"Though we're seeing some weakness in Sharp's stock price recently, it's hard to see that the stock will continue to fall when it's coming out with products that sell," said Kazunori Ohtomo, a fund manager at STB Asset Management Co in Tokyo.

"From what we're seeing in their earnings, Sharp's stock could test highs going forward," Ohtomo said.

Sharp's operating profit, or sales less the cost of goods sold and selling, general and administrative expenses, rose 12 percent to ?32.7 billion during the quarter. Operating profit at its liquid-crystal-display business rose 38 percent to ?8.3 billion, the company said.

December shipments in Japan of liquid-crystal displays used for televisions almost doubled to 242,000 units, the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association has said on its Web site.

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