Panasonic's Quarterly Report Involves Worst Losses in Japanese Industrial History

By Steve Anderson May 11, 2012

The annual report from Panasonic looked less like a financial statement and more like an ocean of red, as the losses in the January-March time frame climbed to 438 billion yen--around $5 billion U.S.--amid a litany of horrors that included natural disasters and a slumping economy. The losses were regarded as being among the worst in Panasonic's history, matching some similarly bad news coming out of competitor Sony.

And this isn't the first quarter of losses for Panasonic either--in the same January-March run in 2011, Panasonic reported a loss of 40.7 billion yen--though these are some of the worst that had been seen, not only by Panasonic itself but by, at last report, the entire history of Japan's industrial system. Perhaps more galling is the report that, in 2011, despite that disastrous first quarter, Panasonic had reported a profit of 74 billion yen for the year.

The problem, according to some reports, is the growing prominence of the rest of the Asian market, as personified by South Korean powerhouse Samsung, though with several others also in the field and gaining ground. Additionally, the strong yen is making exporting difficult as the prices on Japanese goods in general is higher than those made in countries offering weaker currency issues.

Panasonic is hopeful, however, that a turnaround can be accomplished, mainly by trying to increase its total slate of offerings--Panasonic offers industrial products as well as consumer electronics, and has a surprising presence in the health care field--and by bringing in the perspectives of a new president, though shareholder approval is still required before the change in guard is official.

Panasonic doesn't have the gaming lineup that competitor Sony does to fall back on--Panasonic's recent attempt at a gaming device, the Jungle, was canceled in March of 2011 following changes in the market and a plan to pursue green technology and health care issues--but they do have presence in other parts of the market. And considering the graying of the planet's overall demographics, especially in the major industrialized nations, pursuing health care technology may be a smart plan.

But will it be enough to surmount an overall down economy and an environment for consumer technology that's both increasingly competitive and softening? That remains to be seen, but at least Panasonic has a plan. Though if that plan doesn't work, it may well mean the end for Panasonic, as no one can sustain losses like that for long.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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