As Panasonic TVs flicker, new chief offers tough love
By Tim Kelly and Reiji Murai
TOKYO (Reuters) - In today's world of fast gadgets and fickle consumers, managers at Panasonic Corp, the sprawling, and struggling, Japanese electronics manufacturer, still refer to a 250-year business plan their founder wrote between the two world wars.
The 10-generation roadmap exhorted staff to end poverty and make consumer goods as abundant and cheap as tap water - but probably didn't envisage selling millions of TV sets at a loss.
Under a new president, 55-year-old Kazuhiro Tsuga, Panasonic is shaping up for a post-TV future, say company executives and industry analysts.
Inheriting combined losses of more than $15 billion in the past four years and a market value slump of more than 80 percent to below $20 billion, Tsuga has promised to revive Panasonic's fortunes as Japan's consumer electronics industry slips further behind nimbler rivals in South Korea and Taiwan.
Tsuga is expected to reveal more detail of his strategy as early as Monday.
This will involve painful job cuts in a bloated workforce of 330,000, shifting more production overseas and focusing more on white goods such as fridges and washing machines and solar panels and other energy-saving appliances.
In a series of interviews, Tsuga's deputies told Reuters they have been preparing restructuring plans that are now ready to launch to support his reform mission.
Tsuga was not always an obvious choice to lead Panasonic's revolution. He spent 25 years in research and development before being plucked in April 2008 to lead the automotive devices business - making navigation systems, headlights and console electronics - just as the financial crisis began to bite and clients took flight. Continued...