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Panasonic reels from ¥754 billion fiscal ’12 loss

AFP-JIJI

Panasonic said Friday it logged an eye-watering ¥754.2 billion net loss in the fiscal year to March 31 but pledged to turn a profit in the next 12 months.

The loss for the struggling electronics giant is only slightly better than the ¥772.17 billion hole in its balance sheet the previous year, one of the worst-ever losses for a nonfinancial Japanese firm.

Its operating profit, however, jumped 268 percent to ¥160.94 billion as the firm carried out aggressive cost-cutting and reform programs, while sales came to ¥7.3 trillion, down 6.9 percent.

For the year to next March, Panasonic has resolved to turn a net profit of ¥50 billion and up operating profit to ¥250 billion.

But it expects annual sales to fall 1.4 percent to ¥7.2 trillion.

The firm said the electronics industry as a whole “continued to be in a severe business situation, including sluggish demand in flat-panel TVs mainly in Japan.”

Panasonic, like key domestic rivals Sony Corp. and Sharp Corp., has long suffered in its TV business where foreign rivals have proved tough competition, while its debt has been inflated by the purchase of smaller rival Sanyo.

The company also booked some ¥508 billion as a business restructuring expense.

The firm said the yen’s rapid fall against the dollar and the euro toward the end of last year mitigated its problems somewhat. The unit was trading above 100 to $1 Friday, against a rate below 80 in mid-2012.

Exporters generally get a bounce from a weakening currency because their products become more competitive overseas and their repatriated profits are worth more at home.

Ahead of the results announcement, the company’s Tokyo-listed shares closed 3.74 percent up at ¥749.

On Thursday, rival Sony, aided by the weaker yen, said it had booked its first annual net profit in five years, offering a glimmer of hope for the former market leader.