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Top Japanese names showing a profit again, Samsung soaring, but LG catches a cold

Most of Japan's big electronic companies turned a profit in the first quarter of the current financial year, turning around past losses and putting black ink back in the ledger, while one of the two major Korean players in consumer electronics, LG, saw its operating profits fall 90% year on year.

Although Sony reports that a major factor in its success has been growing sales of its LCD TVs, poor performance in the television sector is cited by LG as one of the reasons for its falling profits.

And while LG has just announced it's to spend a trillion won (around £540m) expanding one of its major LCD production facilities, increasing the staff by almost 30%, in Japan Sharp's executive vice president Toshishige Hamano has sounded a note of caution.

He said the company is considering slowing down production at its new LCD plant in Sakai, which came onstream in October last year, citing growing stockpiles of LCD panels created by slowing TV sales in the USA and China.

Of the top six Japanese consumer electronics companies, only NEC reported a net loss for the first quarter of the financial year. Sony's TV business was up 60% year on year by volume, selling 5.1m sets and putting the division Y3bn (£21m) in the black. Last year it lost Y8bn (almost £60m) in the same period.

More after the break

Sony's overall net income was Y25.7bn (£187m), against Y37.1bn (£270m) of loss this time last year.

And despite that caution about US and Chinese sales, Sharp increased TV sales by 34% to 2.69m units, helping the company to a group net profit of Y10.6bn (£77m). Last year it lost Y25.2bn (£184m) in the first quarter.Toshiba, which lost Y57.8bn (£421m) in this period last year, reported a profit of Y400m (£2.9m) this time round, Fujitsu was up to Y1.6bn (£11.6m) of profit, having lost Y29.1bn (£212m) last year, and Panasonic turned a Y52.9bn (£385m) group net loss to Y43.6bn (£318m) of profit, on sales up 35% to Y2.16tn (£15.7bn).

However, Japanese business leaders are still warning that exchange rates still threaten future profitability: the yen remains strong against both the US dollar and the euro.

That, and the falling price of TVs, was a major contributing factor to LG's poor profitability, despite the fact its TV division saw sales up 47% year on year.

But the 126.2bn won (£68m) operating profit LG as a whole reported for April-June is put into context by the results announced by Samsung Electronics – it showed a net profit of 4.28tn won (£2.3bn), up 83% year on year, on sales of 37.98tn won (£20.4bn).

More good news from Samsung comes from the USA, where the company has dominant market shares in most sectors of the TV market, and expects to enjoy its fifth year as the biggest-selling TV brand.

Samsung has a 46% US market share in 40in+ LCD TVs, 43% in Full HD sets, just short of half the 120Hz/240Hz LCD market, and 43% of the 50in+ plasma market.

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