In giant "garage sale", Japan's TV giants hawk $3 billion of assets
By Tim Kelly
TOKYO (Reuters) - Panasonic Corp, Japan's struggling maker of Viera brand TVs, owns more than 10 million square meters of office and factory space, dormitories for its workers and sports facilities for its rugby, baseball and women's athletics teams.
As it battles for Christmas shoppers' wallets in the year-end holiday season, the sprawling electronics conglomerate is also seeking buyers for some of those properties to trim its fixed costs and improve cashflow at a time of intense competition, particularly from South Korean rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co.
Japan's other troubled TV makers, Sony Corp and Sharp Corp, are also selling buildings and businesses in a giant 'garage sale' that could raise a combined $3 billion.
Panasonic plans to raise $1.34 billion from offloading property and shares in other Japanese companies by end-March, the group's chief financial officer Hideaki Kawai told Reuters.
"We have a lot of land and buildings in Japan and overseas," he said in an interview at the company's head office in Osaka, in western Japan. He declined to list which properties would go on the block, but said most are in Japan.
Included is a 24-storey central Tokyo block - built in 2003 with more than 47,300 square meters and housing 2,000 Panasonic workers - a source familiar with the plan told Reuters.
Kawai added that Panasonic would raise about a quarter of the sell-off funds by getting rid of shares it owns in other companies - a common practice of cross-shareholdings in Japan.
The proceeds would help bolster free cashflow to 200 billion yen ($2.43 billion) for the business year to March, Kawai said, and allow Panasonic to reduce its debt and maintain its crucial research and development effort as it revamps its business portfolio. Continued...