Panasonic reports near-record annual loss but forecasts return to profit this year

TOKYO – Japanese consumer electronics giant Panasonic Corp. on Friday reported a near-record net loss of 754 billion yen ($7.5 billion) for the fiscal year through March due to restructuring costs and slumping sales, but predicted a return to the black this year as it prunes unprofitable businesses.

The Osaka-based company, which makes Viera TVs and Lumix digital cameras, has been battered by plunging prices, the strong yen, an ailing TV business and intense competition from the likes of South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co.

Sales declined 7 per cent during the year to 7.3 trillion yen, the company said in its financial results, citing a “severe business situation” in the electronics industry, including sluggish demand for flat-panel TVs.

The company, which lost a record 772 billion yen the previous year — one of the biggest losses ever in Japan — acknowledged that its three-year business plan had fallen far short of the desired results. Under its next three-year management plan, it promised to immediately eliminate unprofitable businesses.

It projected a net profit of 50 billion yen ($500 million) this fiscal year.

In late March, President Kazuhiro Tsuga said the company will persist with trying to fix its ailing TV business, describing an exit from the fiercely competitive industry as a “final resort.”

Panasonic said sales of its plasma TV had fallen by about half, while LCD TVs suffered a 3 per cent decline.