Panasonic Forecasts Record $10 Billion Loss on Floods, Charges

Panasonic Corp. almost doubled its annual loss forecast to a record 780 billion yen ($10 billion), the latest Japanese electronics company to predict weaker earnings because of Thailand floods and slowing demand for TVs.

The revised estimate, which includes goodwill writedown, compares with the 420 billion-yen loss Panasonic predicted in October. The loss in the 12 months ending in March will be the biggest since the world’s largest maker of plasma TVs was founded in 1918.

President Fumio Ohtsubo is eliminating jobs, shifting output overseas and trying to transform the Osaka-based company into a leader in solar panels and rechargeable batteries amid mounting competition in TVs. Panasonic joins Sony Corp. and Sharp Corp. in increasing loss forecasts as they struggle to cope with weak sales after the floods and March earthquake in Japan crippled plants and suppliers.

“We can’t see the market for consumer electronics improving anytime soon,” said Yuuki Sakurai, chief executive officer at Fukoku Capital Management Inc. in Tokyo, which manages the equivalent of $7.4 billion. “There’s a mismatch between the products they make and what consumers want.”

Panasonic rose 1.2 percent to close at 599 yen in Tokyo trading before the announcement, extending its loss this year to 8.4 percent. Japan’s broader Topix index rose 4.4 percent in the same period.

Sanyo Charge

Panasonic is booking a 290 billion-yen charge for goodwill writedown in the year ending in March, with 250 billion yen stemming from its purchase of Sanyo Electric Co.

Operating profit will probably total 30 billion yen in the year, compared with the company’s previous forecast of 130 billion yen, Panasonic said. The company cut its forecast of annual revenue to 8 trillion yen from 8.3 trillion yen.

Sony yesterday said it expects an annual loss of 220 billion yen, more than double its previous estimate. Sharp, Japan’s largest maker of liquid-crystal displays, this week said it may lose 290 billion yen, its worst annual loss since the company was founded a century ago.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, Panasonic reported a net loss of 197.6 billion yen, compared with the 3 billion-yen average of four analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“We’re in the midst of a transformation into an environmental innovation company,” Ohtsubo told reporters in Tokyo today. “We’ll focus on carrying out reforms so that we can realize a V-shaped recovery.”

TV Reform

The world’s No. 4 TV maker is boosting output and buying more parts overseas as gains in the Japanese yen make it more expensive to manufacture in Japan. The company cut its annual TV sales target to 18 million sets from 19 million earlier as it competes against Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc.

Global LCD-TV shipments probably gained 8 percent to 206 million units last year, falling short of an earlier projection of 211 million units, according to an October forecast by DisplaySearch. The shipments rose 13 percent in the quarter ended Dec. 31 from a year earlier, according to the researcher, which estimates annual shipments will rise 10 percent in 2012.

In October, Panasonic announced a plan to revamp its TV and chip operations. The company is suspending two TV display plants in Japan, scrapping plans to relocate panel facilities to China and writing off some value of plants making displays and semiconductors.

Solar Panels

The measures, when combined with cost reductions, more parts purchases from Asian makers and the recovery from flood damages, probably will boost the company’s profit by about 250 billion yen in the year starting April 1, the company said in a statement today.

The maker of Viera televisions and Lumix cameras halted operations in October at its three Thailand factories making home appliances and other products following the nation’s worst floods in 70 years. The disaster will reduce this year’s sales by 130 billion yen and profit by 60 billion yen, it said.

Panasonic plans to strengthen sales of solar panels in Japan, energy-efficient home appliances overseas and rechargeable car batteries, Ohtsubo said.

The company will spend 45 billion yen building a plant for solar cells and modules in Malaysia, the company said in November. The maker of microwave ovens, rice cookers and cordless drills will offer washers and refrigerators in North America next fiscal year, Ohtsubo said.

It also is shifting its procurement base to Singapore from Osaka to buy more parts in Asia.

Panasonic bought a controlling stake in Sanyo, Japan’s largest maker of rechargeable batteries, in 2008 and made it a wholly-owned company last year to accelerate its expansion in battery businesses. It also merged Panasonic Electric Works, which makes lighting systems, electrical wiring fittings and electronic materials, last year.

“Panasonic has been trying to move away from competition with its South Korean rivals, but the company’s efforts, such as buying Sanyo, haven’t brought any results,” said Koji Toda, chief fund manager at Resona Bank Ltd. in Tokyo. “Panasonic needs to move faster.”