Canon made record net of 384 billion yen in 2005

by Taiga Uranaka

Canon Inc. said Monday its net profit rose 12 percent to a record 384.1 billion yen in 2005, thanks to strong sales of digital cameras and color laser printers.

The company also announced that Senior Managing Director Tsuneji Uchida will be promoted to vice president with an eye to eventually replacing President Fujio Mitarai, who is scheduled to take the helm of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), the country’s largest business lobby, in May.

Canon projects solid earnings growth for 2006, with digital camera sales expected to rise 14 percent to 19.2 million units.

For the past year, the company said revenue rose 8 percent to 3.75 trillion yen thanks to strong sales of color laser printers and ink jet printers.

Sales of digital cameras were led by a 47 percent rise in single lens reflex models to 1.9 million units. Compact models grew 18 percent to 15 million units for the year.

Asked about its film camera business, Canon Senior Managing Director Toshizo Tanaka acknowledged that sales were battered by the popularity of digital cameras but said support for film-based products would continue.

“But we have very strong fans of our products, and we will continue to provide film camera products to them,” he said.

Earlier this month, archrival Nikon Corp. said it would phase out its traditional film camera business to focus on digital products. Konica Minolta Holdings Inc. exited from photography altogether shortly afterward.

Canon had said it was planning to launch surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED) TVs, a new kind of flat-screen TV jointly developed with Toshiba Corp., this spring. But SED TVs do not figure in the 2006 forecast because prices are so volatile, Tanaka said.

“Given sharper than expected price falls of liquid crystal panel TVs and plasma display panel TVs, we are reviewing our plan to better cope with the situation,” he said.

Uchida, 64, will first be named vice president in a shareholders’ meeting scheduled in March. Mitarai, 70, will double as chairman and president for now.

Uchida will become president when Mitarai becomes chairman of JBF, taking over from Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda in May.