Panasonic to Simplify Management Group to Help Revive Profit

Panasonic to Simplify Management Group as It Moves to End Losses
Panasonic Corp. televisions displayed at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Panasonic Corp. will revamp its main management group to pare its size as it aims to shift away from its money-losing television business to more profitable batteries and solar cells after posting a record annual loss.

“We aim to make a v-shaped recovery, no matter what it takes,” Chairman Fumio Ohtsubo, 66, said today at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Osaka. “We intend to simplify the headquarters function this fiscal year.” Ohtsubo became chairman today and was replaced as president by Kazuhiro Tsuga.

Panasonic, Sony Corp. and Sharp Corp. are all seeking shareholder approvals this week for their new leaders after a decline in television prices, the yen’s gain, floods in Thailand and an earthquake led them to post a combined 1.6 trillion yen ($20 billion) in net losses for the year ended March 31. Panasonic, the world’s largest maker of plasma TVs, has been trying to boost sales of energy-saving appliances and solar panels in an attempt to move away from its money-losing TV operation.

Panasonic, the biggest employer among Japanese publicly traded companies with 330,767 employees as of March 31, eliminated 36,000 jobs last fiscal year and may further streamline operations, it said May 29.

Tsuga was promoted to the top job after he took steps to stem the company’s losses from TVs. The executive, who spent most of his career at Panasonic’s research operations, suspended three of five TV-panel factories within a year after taking charge of the audio-visual products unit in April 2011.

Profit Outlook

Panasonic’s TV unit will probably turn profitable in the fourth quarter this fiscal year after four consecutive years of losses, the company said in May.

The maker of HIT solar panels in May projected net income of 50 billion yen for this fiscal year, compared with a 772 billion-yen loss last fiscal year. The company’s record loss stemmed partly from a total of 250 billion yen in charges to writedown assets related to Sanyo Electric Co.

Panasonic dropped 1.3 percent to 618 yen as of the close of trading in Tokyo. The shares have slumped 35 percent in the past 12 months, compared with an 8.9 percent decline in the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average.

Ohtsubo apologized to shareholders for the company’s decline in market value.

“We’re sorry about the decline in our share price and we intend to revive earnings to relieve shareholder concern about this,” Ohtsubo said.

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