Panasonic looks to exit plasma TVs

Kyodo, JIJI

Panasonic Corp. may withdraw from plasma display TV operations in fiscal 2014 to focus more on profitable products, corporate sources said Monday.

There will be no full-time Japanese producers of plasma TVs if Panasonic, which began selling them in 1997, pulls out.

Panasonic is being forced to abandon the technology because it failed to keep up with the strides being made in liquid crystal display TVs aggressively sold by Samsung Electronics Co., Sony Corp. and others.

Panasonic is expected to formally announce the downsizing of its TV operations later this month when it releases a new midterm business plan.

Panasonic is arranging to cease production of plasma TV panels at its plant in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, as soon as the business year ending in March 2015, the sources said.

Panasonic, which has already ended research and development on plasma panels, will assess the timing of its complete withdrawal from the money-losing business while gradually reducing the output volume, because it still needs to win agreement on the move from its partners.

Other than TVs, it is possible that Panasonic will entirely pull out of plasma panel operations for electronic blackboards and other products as well, the sources said.

Panasonic could face hefty losses if it is required to record an impairment of asset value in its accounts after terminating the operations at the Amagasaki plant, which has three production buildings.

The Osaka-based company will also consider relocating the plant’s workers, they said.

In flat-panel TVs, Panasonic’s strategy was to focus on plasma, which provides better picture quality on large screens, and to spend heavily on the Amagasaki plant.

The plentiful availability of large-screen and high-quality LCD TVs, however, allowed the less-exotic units to take market share from plasma, forcing Panasonic to scale down its operations.

Panasonic’s retreat from plasma TV follows similar moves by Hitachi Ltd. and Pioneer Corp.

Panasonic plans to pare its LCD TV and panel operations and raise its production outsourcing ratio to 70 percent by March 31 and eventually procure most panels from other firms.