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Panasonic to take almost 50% stake in Spanish autoparts maker Ficosa

OSAKA -- Panasonic will place major Spanish autoparts manufacturer Ficosa International under its umbrella, with an eye on joint development of self-driving-car technologies, The Nikkei learned Wednesday.

     The Japanese electronics giant is expected to take a stake of slightly less than half for 20 billion yen to 30 billion yen ($182 million to $273 million) by March of next year. This will be its first big acquisition in the automotive field, which it positions as a pillar of its growth strategy.

     The two sides will iron out the details of the deal, including the price, by year-end. Panasonic may raise its interest in the future and turn Ficosa into a subsidiary.

     Ficosa generated sales of about 130 billion yen in 2013, holding a roughly 20% share of the global market for auto mirrors. It supplies major automakers around the world, mainly to such European companies as Volkswagen. Ficosa develops technologies for cameras that identify obstacles around vehicles.

     Panasonic has strength in automotive sensors. It hopes to combine its technologies with Ficosa's expertise in image recognition and other areas to quickly develop new technologies.

     The integration of autos and information technology has resulted in partnerships and acquisitions among autoparts and electronics companies. Demand for advanced driving support systems, on-board Internet devices and other high-tech equipment is certain to grow.

     In particular, the self-driving car, which could completely change the concept of autos, is a new growth field that has drawn not just automakers but companies from other industries, including Google. In this arena, technological prowess will determine the competitiveness of manufacturers of autos and parts. Through the latest deal, Panasonic aims to become a global player in state-of-the-art auto technologies.

     Panasonic targets consolidated sales of 10 trillion yen for the year ending March 2019, up about 30% from last fiscal year. It aims to boost auto-related sales by 50% over the same span to 2 trillion yen. Panasonic has a weak presence in the European auto equipment market, but the Ficosa deal will give it a toehold in the region that it can use to sell existing automotive products, including car navigation systems.

     Ficosa has about 8,700 employees and locations in about 20 countries, including factories in Europe, the U.S., China and India.

(Nikkei)

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