Panasonic Rumored to Sell Local Asset to HTC or TSMC

on March 20 2013 12:00 PM

 

First Panasonic (NYSE: PC [FREE Stock Trend Analysis]) closed a plasma TV factory in Shanghai.

Then the company reportedly pulled back on the production of plasma displays. Now Panasonic is said to be interested in selling its handset business.

According to DigiTimes, HTC and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (NYSE: TSM) have been "pinpointed" as potential buyers by the Japanese press.

Lenovo, who is interested in acquiring any number of tech companies, including BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY), was mysteriously absent from the report.

If Panasonic decides to sell its handset brand, the announcement might come as a bit of a surprise to some investors. The Panasonic brand is not exactly synonymous with phones. While the Japanese TV maker produces a wide range of electronics, few are aware that the company also manufactures a sleek iPhone competitor.

Unlike Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and BlackBerry, whose phones have earned worldwide recognition, Panasonic's smartphones are not well known outside of Japan. The company tried to change that when it took its smartphone business to Europe last year.

That initiative failed, however, prompting the company to exit the market less than 12 months after launch.

This could make it difficult for Panasonic to find a buyer. It could also diminish the value of the acquisition.

Nonetheless, Panasonic may be forced to sell the division as soon as possible. The company reported a surprise profit last quarter, but its losses continued to widen.

In November Panasonic announced that it may lay off as many as 10,000 employees, mirroring a similar announcement made by Sony (NYSE: SNE) last spring.

Panasonic CFO Hideaki Kawai told Reuters that his new boss (Kazuhiro Tsuga, who took over as company president last June) said that the company's businesses "must achieve at least a 5 percent operating profit target within three years."

"But we won't wait that long to tackle units that need to be dealt with," he added.

It seems that smartphone manufacturing may be one such unit.

Louis Bedigian is the Senior Tech Analyst and Features Writer of Benzinga. You can reach him at 248-636-1322 or louis@benzingapro.com. Follow him @LouisBedigianBZ

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