Panasonic slashes profit estimate, feels pinch of strong yen

TOKYO – Japanese electronics company Panasonic Corp. has cut its forecast for full-year net profit citing the impact of a strong currency and weaker earnings from sales of its solar energy systems for home use.

The Osaka-based company said Monday that it expects 120 billion yen ($1.1 billion) in net profit in the fiscal year that ends March 31. Its earlier forecast was for 145 billion yen in net profit.

It cut its sales forecast for the current fiscal year to 7.2 trillion yen ($68.9 billion) from 7.6 trillion yen.

Panasonic said its net profit rose 7.7 per cent over a year earlier in the April-September six-month period to 119.9 billion yen. The company’s sales fell 7 per cent to 3.5 trillion yen ($33.4 billion).

Panasonic has confirmed it is studying a collaboration with U.S. electric car maker Tesla to make solar products at a Buffalo, New York facility of SolarCity Corp., a San Mateo, California-based solar panel company.

That project, should it be realized, would fit with Panasonic’s effort to build up its automotive-related business.

The company saw a 1 per cent increase in sales of appliances in the April-September half-year but sales of other products fell. Profit also rose as the company increased production of more costly products such as 4K televisions and air conditioners.

But sales of solar panels for home use, widely relied on by Japanese families, fell due to “significant market shrinkage,” it said.

Panasonic said it intends to expand into the home remodeling business, which is thriving as Japanese renovate or rebuild aging homes.

The Japanese yen gained in value against the U.S. dollar over the past year. That hurt profits earned in dollars when they were brought back to Japan. The dollar was trading at about 105 yen on Monday, down from about 120 yen a year earlier.