Panasonic moves to beef up energy biz presence

by Hiroko Nakata

Panasonic Corp. announced Thursday it has reached an agreement to turn Sanyo Electric Co. and Panasonic Electric Works Co. into wholly owned units by April to beef up its energy business amid intensifying global competition.

“The rapid growth of environmental and energy-related businesses, including in emerging economies, offers the chance to expand even as competition intensifies in such sectors as rechargeable and solar cells and electric vehicles,” they said in a joint statement.

“To compete in new markets, we must speed up the implementation of our strategies and strengthen our power as a group,” the statement said.

The Osaka-based electronics giant, which has faced serious challenges from South Korean electronics behemoth Samsung Electronics Co., plans to acquire all the shares of the two firms through a tender offer between Aug. 23 and Oct. 6.

Panasonic will issue up to ¥500 billion in new shares, partly due to the expected costs for the tender offer.

To support the tender offer, Sanyo and Panasonic Electric Works each agreed on the same day at their board meetings that they will recommend their shareholders to take part.

Failing that, it would carry out stock swaps with the two firms in April, they said.

Panasonic currently holds a 50.2 percent stake in Sanyo and a 52.1 percent share of Panasonic Electric Works.

If Panasonic acquires all of Sanyo’s shares, at ¥138 per share, and all shares of Panasonic Electric Works, at ¥1,110 each, the overall cost would be ¥818.4 billion.

Asked why Panasonic decided to take in the two units at this time, President Fumio Otsubo told reporters in Osaka held later in the day, “The more I looked at the recent global market and competitors, the more I realized they learned how to compete, innovate, grow and make strategies at faster speeds than we can imagine.” The news conference was shown in Tokyo through a satellite link.

“I’ve we could not win at our current speed,” he said. “If we maximize each of the companies’ strength, I believed we could win globally.”

In January 2012, the Panasonic group plans to reorganize and unify the three companies’ businesses, including consumer electronics, and solar and lithium-ion batteries.

Otsubo also said wholly owning the two units in 2012 would create synergy that would generate an operating profit of about ¥60 billion and a ¥30 billion net profit.

He has previously said that in the future, Panasonic would like to bring the three companies’ separate brands — including the 60-year-old Sanyo brand — under Panasonic. But “for the time being,” the Sanyo brand will remain on some products at some districts where Sanyo has strength, he added without elaborating.

Sanyo became a Panasonic subsidiary in 2009, as did Panasonic Electric Works in 2004.