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Panasonic Names First Female Board Member as Executives Trimmed

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Panasonic Corp. named the first female board member in its 95-year history while trimming the executive ranks as the electronics company tries to lower costs and speed up decision-making after a record annual loss.

Japan’s No. 2 TV maker is adding Hiroko Ota, a former Economic and Fiscal Policy minister now teaching at Tokyo’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, to its board, the Osaka-based company said in a statement today. The number of executive officers will drop to 21 from 30, partly because some are retiring without being replaced, according to the statement.

The changes come as President Kazuhiro Tsuga, 56, prepares to outline a revival plan as the company heads for its fourth annual loss in five years. The maker of Viera TVs is cutting jobs and reducing the number of business units after posting a 772 billion-yen ($8.4 billion) net loss in the year ended March 2012.

“We’d like to get diversified opinions from Ms. Ota by getting her as an outside director,” said Chieko Gyobu, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman.

The company is increasing its directors to 17 from 16, while the number of auditors remains at five. Panasonic booked a profit last quarter after eliminating 13,000 jobs, while closest domestic peer Sony Corp. reported a net loss. Sony also has a woman on its board, Yukako Uchinaga.

Panasonic fell 1.8 percent to close at 659 yen in Tokyo trading today, trimming its gain this year to 26 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 1.3 percent.

The retiring executive officers include Shiro Kitajima, president of a North American marketing unit. His responsibilities will pass to Joseph Taylor.

Tsuga is set to announce a new medium-term plan next month that may include reform measures for unprofitable businesses, including the TV-making unit. He plans to focus on divisions offering the highest profit margins, including beauty products, and decrease reliance on lower-margin products including TVs and mobile phones.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mariko Yasu in Tokyo at myasu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net

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