panasonic corporate
Cost-cutting, domestic demand and Japanese government incentive schemes helping better results

Panasonic is back in the black – or at least it was in the third quarter of last year. The company showed a net profit of Y32.26bn (£231m) for October-December 2009, a huge improvement on its Y63.12 (£451m) loss for the same period in 2008. Operating profit saw an even more impressive gain, up 280% on the 2008 levels.

And it's not alone: Sharp and Sony also posted profits for the last quarter, along with Korean rival Samsung. In Sony's case its Y146.1bn (£1bn) operating profit was its first for five quarters, on sales up 4% to Y2.24tn (almost £16bn), while Sharp – Japan's largest LCD TV makers – was up to Y9.1bn (£65m), compared with a Y65.8bn (£470m) loss last year.

Cost-cutting and consumer incentivesMajor factors in this turnaround seem to have been extensive cost-cutting across the companies' operations, and a Japanese government incentive scheme to encourage domestic consumers to switch to more energy-efficient electrical and electronic goods, thus stimulating demand.

That certainly seems to have worked: Panasonic's total sales are still in the Japanese domestic market, and it sold 50% more TVs there. However, emerging markets such as Latin America and China look promising, with Panasonic's TV sales in those regions up 70% and 90% respectively.

Overall Panasonic TV sales were up 48%, while costs in the division were cut by 30%.

More after the break

Sony's TV division turned its first profit in eight quarters, though sales were only up a disappointing 8%. However, price-falls in the LCD TV sector weren't quite as bad as expected, costs were reduced and outsourcing some TV panel supply and assembly seems to have helped, too.

However, these gains don't mean the big Japanese companies are out of the woods just yet: Panasonic still expects to lose Y140bn (£1bn) in the current financial year.

And while Sony has revised its estimates upward, it still expects to post a Y70bn (£500m) net loss. Last year it lost Y95bn (£677m).Follow whathifi.com on Twitter