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Sat, Feb 25, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Matsushita president says TV shift a rare opportunity


Matsushita Electric's incoming president, Fumio Ohtsubo, said yesterday he sees the switch from conventional TVs to flat-panel televisions as an opportunity that comes only once in several decades.

And his company is in a perfect position to exploit that opportunity: Matsushita is the world's top producer of plasma display panel TVs, which have proved a big hit around the world.

"The transition from cathode-ray tube TVs to plasma is a technological innovation that comes once in several decades," said Ohtsubo, 60, who will be taking over the electronics giant from Kunio Nakamura, in June after shareholders' likely approval.

Workers who develop technology form the backbone of Matsushita's strength, and they will work closely with marketing and sales to look ahead to what will be in demand in 10 years and 20 years, Ohtsubo said at a meeting with reporters.

Nakamura, who will become chairman, said he saw a good opportunity to hand over leadership because the company is on a stable track to recovery.

Both Ohtsubo and Nakamura said the trend toward bigger screens and high-definition images in TVs will continue, giving Japanese electronics makers an edge over cheaper Asian rivals.

"We have technology that other nations don't have, and we are manufacturing the products in Japan," Nakamura said, adding that Matsushita's turnaround was symbolic of a larger revival in the Japanese economy from stagnation lasting more than a decade.

Ohtsubo, an engineer and senior managing director who joined the company in 1971, expressed his determination to boost growth at Osaka-based Matsushita Electric Industrial Co, which makes Panasonic brand products.

"As a manufacturing company, Matsushita must use our technological strength to create attractive products if we hope to beat global competition," he said.

One of his main goals will be to boost operating profit ratio -- a measure of a company's efficiency by comparing profit and sales -- now at nearly 5 percent to 10 percent by 2010.

Ohtsubo yesterday also expressed confidence that the company and its partners would win the battle for dominance in next-generation DVD players.

Otsubo said he would uphold his predecessor's policy of promoting the Blu-ray standard.

Supporters of the Blu-ray format, led by Matsushita and Sony Corp, are waging a fierce battle against a rival HD DVD format pushed by Toshiba Corp and NEC Corp, with the two sides vying to set the common standard in the lucrative market.

The Blu-ray disc is expected to have a greater storage capacity than the HD DVD but also to be more expensive to make, at least in the short-term.

Otsubo said that the Blu-ray format was more suitable for the use of large, flat screen television sets, now a rapidly growing market. The Blu-ray side had already won contracts with twice as many Hollywood filmmakers as those on the HD DVD standard, he added.

The Hollywood studios pushed the Sony and Toshiba camps to settle their differences and develop a single format in an effort to avoid a replay of the VHS-Betamax war between two types of video cassette tapes in the late 1970s.

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