Thursday, July 5, 2012

Panasonic Sees Japan Share of Solar Sales Jump on Tariff

Panasonic Corp. (6752) expects sales of solar-power systems in Japan to account for a bigger proportion of its global total this year as the July 1 introduction of a so-called feed-in-tariff, or FIT, boosts demand.

“We expect a boom in the residential market as the FIT price was set at a very good level,” Kazuhiro Yoshida, who heads the Osaka-based electronics-maker’s solar business, told reporters in Tokyo today. Japan sales will probably climb to 80 percent of revenue at the business this fiscal year from the 67 percent it comprised in the 12 months ended March 31, he said.

Panasonic and rival panel makers including Sharp Corp. (6753) and Kyocera Corp. (6971) stand to benefit from the 42 yen (53 cents) a kilowatt-hour feed-in tariff utilities will be required to pay solar power producers starting next month. Sharp, also based in Osaka, and Panasonic are increasing their focus on solar panels and batteries after losing a combined 1.15 trillion yen ($14.5 billion) last fiscal year as prices for the plasma and liquid- crystal display televisions they sell dropped.

Worldwide shipments of solar panels may increase to 38 gigawatts in the year ending March 2016 from an estimated 23 gigawatts in the 12 months to March 2013, helped by growing demand in Japan and the U.S., Yoshida said.

Panasonic plans to take advantage of its retail network to boost market share in Japan where the nuclear meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant last year increased demand for alternative energy sources, Yoshida said.

Malaysia Factory

Panasonic is also increasing solar-panel capacity and lowering costs by opening a new plant in Malaysia to begin operating in December, Yoshida said. The company expects to keep margins for the solar business at about 10 percent this year.

The manufacturer’s battery unit, which makes rechargeable batteries used in consumer electronics as well as solar-power systems, will probably post a 3 billion yen profit in the fiscal year started April 1 as sales rise 7 percent to 660 billion yen, Panasonic said in May. That compares with a loss of 20.9 billion yen a year earlier.

The unit targets 1 trillion yen in revenue with an operating margin, or operating income divided by sales, of at least 10 percent by March 2016, Masato Ito, head of Panasonic’s energy business, said May 23.


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