NEC Corp. on Monday named Akinobu Kanasugi, head of the firm’s information technology unit, its next president.

Kanasugi will replace Koji Nishigaki on March 28, following the appointment’s expected endorsement at a board meeting earlier in the month, NEC officials said.

Nishigaki, who has led the electronics giant since March 1999, will become vice chairman of the board.

Nishigaki said it is high time for him to step down, following his implementation of a restructuring drive. He also said Kanasugi is best-qualified to lead the company as it turns its resources toward its IT and solutions businesses.

After becoming president, Nishigaki engineered an integration maneuver with Hitachi Ltd. covering the firms’ dynamic random access memory operations. He also pushed a drastic workforce-reduction program and spun off the firm’s semiconductor operations.

“I thought it is a good time to change top personnel, because these reform measures have pretty much achieved their initial goals, and we are very likely to be back in profit this fiscal year,” he said, adding that he has health concerns. Nishigaki was hospitalized in November.

Bludgeoned by the IT-slump, the firm posted a staggering net loss of 312 billion yen in fiscal 2001.

Thanks to its massive restructuring efforts, it hopes to return to the black in fiscal 2002, projecting a net profit of 10 billion yen.

Nishigaki denied that his move is linked to a widely publicized conflict with Tadahiro Sekimoto, former president and chairman of NEC.

Sekimoto’s public criticism of the current management led to his dismissal as an adviser in December.

Kanasugi has served as president of NEC Solutions, one of NEC’s main in-house divisions. NEC Solutions oversees software-related services, including the provision of information-system construction services to corporate and government clients.

He is credited with having made the division one of the firm’s key profit pillars, and his prospective appointment seems to illustrate NEC’s view that its software-related services operation will continue to beef up the firm’s revenues, industry analysts said.

Kanasugi, a 61-year-old native of Kanagawa Prefecture, joined NEC in 1967 after obtaining an MBA degree from the University of California in Los Angeles.

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