Panasonic and Sony debt ratings downgraded to 'junk'

Japanese consumer electronics giants Panasonic and Sony were hit by more bad news after a tricky recent period after credit rating agency Fitch downgraded the companies' debt ratings to 'junk'.

Fitch cited weakness in their consumer electronics and TV operations and an inability to compete with the likes of LG and Samsung. A strong yen and production issues have also affected the Japanese companies' earnings.

Share prices for both Panasonic and Sony hit all-time lows last week, though reaction to the news was subdued with prices falling before rallying to similar levels to before the announcement.

Panasonic forecasts it will lose close to $10 billion in the year to March, while Sony is set to make a full-year profit of $1.63 billion thanks to the sale of a non-core chemicals business.

Fellow Japanese giant Sharp has already made drastic cuts in the face of similarly tough financial conditions.

Together the three Japanese companies racked up losses of $20 billion last year.

Reuters reports that Fitch downgraded Sony by three notches to BB-minus from BBB-minus, saying meaningful recovery will be slow.

"Fitch believes that continuing weakness in the home entertainment and sound and mobile products and communications segments will offset the relatively stable music and pictures segments and improvement in the devices segment which makes semiconductors and components," it said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Fitch cut Panasonic to BB from BBB-minus, a two-notch downgrade. It has a negative outlook on both companies.

Sony and Panasonic recently announced they would work together on future TV development, specifically OLED TVs, in an effort to counter the slump in sales and tough competition from South Korea.

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Joe Cox
Content Director

Joe is the Content Director for What Hi-Fi? and Future’s Product Testing, having previously been the Global Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi?. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? across the print magazine and website for almost 20 years, writing news, reviews and features on everything from turntables to TVs, headphones to hi-fi separates. He has covered product launch events across the world, from Apple to Technics, Sony and Samsung; reported from CES, the Bristol Show, and Munich High End for many years; and written for sites such as the BBC, Stuff, and the Guardian. In his spare time, he enjoys expanding his vinyl collection and cycling (not at the same time).