Japan's Casio Computer Co Ltd said it planned to launch W-CDMA cell phones in Japan sometime during the six months from October 2008 to March 2009, reaching out for a wider range of potential customers.

Casio now makes CDMA-based phones and supplies them to Japan's KDDI Corp, Verizon Wireless in the United States and South Korea's LG Telecom Ltd, but it said earlier this year it would launch competing W-CDMA handsets.

KDDI, Japan's No.2 wireless operator, has CDMA-based networks, while NTT DoCoMo Inc and Softbank Corp, the largest and third-largest, offer cell phone services based on W-CDMA technology.

Casio also said on Friday its operating profit came to 13.74 billion yen ($119.6 million) in April-September, down 40.8 percent from a year earlier, as sluggish cell phone sales more than offset brisk digital camera demand.

The result came as little surprise since the Japanese consumer electronics maker last month revised down its outlook for the financial first half to September as well as for the full year to March 2008.

Casio has seen competition heat up as bigger rivals such as Sharp Corp and Panasonic maker Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd have started offering handsets to KDDI in the past year.

Casio now expects its operating profit to total 37.2 billion yen in the current business year, beating a consensus of 36.1 billion yen in a poll of 13 analysts by Reuters Estimates.

The latest outlook is down 22.6 percent from a year earlier.

Casio, known for a line of products with novel features, offers Exilim brand ultra-thin digital cameras and waterproof and shock-resistant cell phones.

Casio Managing Director Akinori Takagi said its cell phone business is expected to return to profitability in the October-March second half due to new handset launches and cost cuts.

Shares in Casio closed down 0.5 percent at 1,116 yen ahead of the announcement, outperforming the Tokyo stock market's electrical machinery index IELEC, which fell 1.54 percent.

By Thursday, Casio shares had fallen 58.5 percent since the start of the year, while the subindex was down 2.3 percent.

(Additional reporting by Nathan Layne)