Panasonic set to hit record £6.4bn loss

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Japan’s Panasonic warned of a record annual £6.4bn net loss, joining beleaguered rivals Sony and Sharp in a sea of red ink as they struggle to fix their broken TV businesses and show they have not lost their way.

Panasonic’s forecast loss of £6.46bn for the year to March dwarfed expectations, and is almost all due to restructuring charges and writedowns for its Sanyo Electric unit.

Panasonic President Fumio Ohtsubo apologised for the unprecedented loss. “I feel the responsibility for the huge amount,” he said.

He gave no sign, however, that he would step aside to let someone else try to revamp the sprawling consumer electronics giant, as Sony’s boss Howard Stringer has done.

Sony on Thursday pressed its reset button after warning of a bigger-than-expected annual loss, announcing that Kazuo Hirai will take over from Stringer as CEO in April, triggering an 8 per cent jump in its share price yesterday, its biggest one-day percentage gain in almost a year.

“We will accelerate our profit structure reform and make sure we achieve a V-shaped performance improvement in the next business year,” Ohtsubo said.

Together, Panasonic, Sony and Sharp expect to lose $17bn this year, highlighting the savaging of Japan’s electronics industry by foreign rivals led by South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, weak demand and a strong yen.

With TVs becoming smart, an inability by Panasonic to win in the TV market risks hobbling sales across their wider consumer electronics line-up.