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Panasonic to trim 15,000 jobs

PANASONIC Corp, the world's largest consumer-electronics maker, announced yesterday that it will cut about 15,000 jobs and predicted its first loss in six years as the deepening recession hurts demand for televisions and cameras.

The company forecast a net loss of 380 billion yen (US$4.3 billion) and a 15-percent decline in sales in the year ending March 31. Panasonic, led by President Fumio Ohtsubo, also slashed its planned dividend 33 percent to 30 yen a share.

Panasonic joins rival Sony Corp in eliminating thousands of workers and closing factories as consumer spending slumps worldwide. The Osaka-based company yesterday lowered its revenue forecast by 8.8 percent as falling demand and prices turn the main TV operations unprofitable this year.

"Earnings have just been atrocious all around, while the massive scale and rapidity by which profits have evaporated is surprising," said Naoteru Teraoka, who helps oversee US$21 billion at Chuo Mitsui Asset Management Co in Tokyo. "There's no way to make up for the harsh environment simply by restructuring."

Demand for TVs and cameras won't recover any earlier than the year starting April 2010, according to estimates at Credit Suisse Group AG and Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd.

The stock gained 1 percent to close at 1,092 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange before the announcement. The stock lost 52 percent last year, compared with the 42 percent drop for the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average.

Panasonic, which is seeking to buy Sanyo Electric Co to become the world's largest maker of rechargeable batteries, said yesterday that it's behind schedule on the planned takeover. The two companies are in the process of clearing anti-monopoly laws in 11 countries, Panasonic Director Makoto Uenoyama said.

The net loss forecast includes 345 billion yen in costs to reorganize operations and a 78-billion-yen charge for a decline in the value of shareholdings.

Uenoyama said the job cuts will include part-time and full-time employees, declining to specify a breakdown. Panasonic had 307,444 full-time workers at the end of last year.

Panasonic was expected to change its forecast to a 28.7-billion-yen loss, based on the median of nine analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg News in the past month.


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