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Panasonic to abandon unprofitable plasma TV biz

Posted: 14 Oct 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:plasma TV? LCD panel? manufacturing?

Following what other Japanese manufacturers have started (or ended), Panasonic has announced that it will stop producing plasma TVs. Hitachi left the plasma panel business in fiscal 2008. Pioneer called it quits a year later, leaving Panasonic as the last company to abandon plasma screens.

Ditching the unprofitable business had been high on Panasonic president Kazuhiro Tsuga's to-do list since he took office last year, but the exit will be made a year sooner than had been predicted. In recent years, the weakening TV business has stalked Japan's many ailing consumer electronics companies including Panasonic. Its TV division has contributed to the company's $15 billion of net losses over the past two fiscal years. Last year, that division posted an operating loss of $913 million.

Tsuga earned his reputation by becoming the first Panasonic executive to question openly if plasma screens were visibly better than LCD panels. In a 2012 essay that appeared in the reputable monthly publication Bungei Shunju, Tsuga described a personal experiment at home. Soon after taking over the money-losing TV unit in April 2011, he had a Panasonic plasma TV and a rival brand's LCD TV installed in his home to compare them from the consumer's viewpoint. "My wife and I watched them every day. My wife, who was probably rooting for Panasonic, said that plasma TV might be a little better. But I didn't see a discernible difference."

Panasonic has halted development of new plasma TVs. It will continue selling them, reportedly until next fiscal year, when inventory is expected to run out.

Tsuga has been outspoken about shutting down any division that fails to meet a five per cent operating margin within three years. He is also offloading so-called noncore assets. Panasonic agreed last month to sell its healthcare business, which makes blood sugar monitoring devices and electronic recordkeeping systems, to the U.S. private equity firm KKR & Co. for $1.67 billion.

Junko Yoshida
??EE Times

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