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Business

South Korean giants cleaning up in Asia's home appliance market

TOKYO The balance of power in Asia's home appliance market is shifting as South Korea's LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics make great strides in an arena once dominated by Japanese players such as Sharp and Toshiba.

     In an eight-country market-share survey covering four household appliances -- washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners and televisions -- by British research company Euromonitor International, South Korean manufacturers took the top spot in 15 markets, nearly half of those surveyed. According to the poll, their strength lies in after-sales services and developing products geared to local needs, which has enabled them to tap into the newfound wealth of the region's expanding middle classes.

     The survey also revealed that Asia's market for household electronics is ballooning. In 2014, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines had a combined market value of about $15 billion for the four appliances, an increase of about 70% from four years earlier. In India, sales of the four items reached $9.2 billion last year, about 60% higher than in 2010.

     However, the appliance business is something of a last stronghold for South Korean consumer electronics makers, whose struggling TV and smartphone businesses have been weighing on their bottom lines.

     Meanwhile, Japanese appliance makers are restructuring by concentrating on their core strengths and withdrawing from unprofitable regions. They could re-emerge stronger.

     Chinese manufacturers are also hungry to grab bigger chunks of the Asian market. In Indonesia, where Chinese products are less popular, Haier Group plans to double sales in three years.

     In Thailand, meanwhile, 38 local appliance makers have set up domestic brands.

     South Korean companies may have stolen a march on their rivals recently, but with new players arriving on the scene and old ones looking for new opportunities, power relations in the Asian market may not stay the same for long.

Nikkei staff writers Kentaro Ogura in Seoul, Sadachika Watanabe in Jakarta and Tamaki Kyozuka in Bangkok contributed to this story.

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