Panasonic LCD
Mobara factory will be sold to group including Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba; flatscreen TV sales in Japan a quarter of last year's

One of Panasonic's LCD panel factories in Japan is to be bought by a consortium also set to acquire the small-panel LCD business of Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba.

The Mobara  plant, in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo, is to be sold to a consortium headed by Japanese public-private investment fund The Innovation Network Corporation.

The new company, Japan Display, will be 70% owned by the fund, and is expected to buy the small and midsize LCD panel operations of Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba.

The Y20bn (£166m) Japan Display is expected to spend buying the Mobara plant will speed up the process of getting production up and running. It's expected to spend a further Y100bn (£830m) converting the plant from its current TV-size LCD panel output into a state-of-the-art facility for the manufacture of smaller displays for use in smartphones and tablet devices.

Production should be underway within a year, using sixth-generation LCD glass to make the smaller displays. Panasonic will concentrate domestic production of TV-size panels at its most up-to-date LCD plant, in Himeji.

Flatscreen sales down 72% in Japan

The move comes as latest figures for Japanese domestic sales reveal just over a quarter as many flatscreens were sold in October as in the same month last year. Sales were down 72% year on year by volume, and 81% by value.

That's attributed to demand running out now the digital TV switchover has been completed in Japan, while prices have tumbled as major retailers attempt to encourage buyers to replace their existing TVs with larger models in the 40in+ class.

The average retail price of a flatscreen TV sold in Japan fell below Y50,000 for the first time in October, and now stands at Y49,500 (about £415).

It's expected that the sales slump may deepen in November, especially by comparison with the boom-time in the same month last year, when an eco-points scheme encouraged many consumers to buy.

But it's expected (or is that hoped?) that sales will pick up in December, as the traditional year-end sales and gift-giving season begins.

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