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Panasonic eyes growth via auto parts ventures

Bloomberg

Panasonic Corp. is in talks with automotive parts makers for possible acquisitions or alliances as Japan’s No. 2 TV maker seeks to expand the components it delivers to vehicle manufacturers.

The supplier of lithium-ion batteries for Toyota Motor Corp. and Tesla Motors Inc. is interested in companies that make front and rear car components and have a strong safety record, Yoshihiko Yamada, head of Panasonic’s automotive and industrial systems unit, said Monday.

Panasonic plans to double revenue to ¥2 trillion from automobile-related products such as drive-control systems by March 2019, as part of President Kazuhiro Tsuga’s plan to cut reliance on televisions and other consumer electronics. The company, which has announced six deals this year worth around ¥47 billion, will seek partnerships or deals to accelerate growth in technologies such as automatic parking, Yamada said.

“It’s hard to enter a new area without a track record and it’s hard for our system to get adopted without making the device that can contain the system,” Yamada said in Osaka. “That’s among our weaknesses.”

Panasonic makes cameras and sensors that can be used in an automated parking system, according to Yamada. “They can be added to the front or rear bumper, but we don’t make bumpers.”

The executive declined to identify companies that are in talks with Panasonic.

Yamada’s automotive and industrial systems unit, which also makes devices for industries other than carmakers, was the biggest contributor to profit and revenue among Panasonic’s four main divisions in the six months that ended Sept. 30. The unit generated ¥1.36 trillion in sales during the period, about 37 percent of the company’s total revenue.

For automotive-related products, the firm will probably generate ¥1.1 trillion in sales this financial year, up 10 percent from a year earlier, Yamada said. The annual revenue will probably total ¥1.3 trillion by March 2016, he said.

Car safety devices, such as 360-degree view camera systems, and power packs for electric cars, are two focus areas to drive growth, Panasonic said last month. The company is also expanding its entertainment systems used in cars to meet rising demand for passengers to watch DVDs and other multimedia systems used in the living room.

Demand to make cars more environment-friendly through lower emissions and to increase safety measures will boost industrywide revenue of car-related businesses to about ¥19 trillion in 2018, Yamada said.

Panasonic aims to tap its consumer-electronics business technologies, including face recognition software used in Lumix cameras, to develop more car products, Yamada said.