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Japan's electronics industry returning to form

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Profits have surged at Panasonic and other Japanese electronics giants.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The nation's biggest electronics manufacturers are enjoying an earnings recovery, with Hitachi, Panasonic and Toshiba all posting sharp gains in April-June operating profits Thursday.

     More than 400 corporations listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange reported results for the quarter that day. A total of 894, or nearly 40% of the overall TSE tally, have released earnings so far; their combined pretax profit rose 8% on the year. The electronics industry played a major role in lifting profits amid concerns that the April 1 consumption tax hike would hurt domestic corporations.

     Hitachi's operating profit jumped 45% to 80.1 billion yen ($771 million) on robust earnings in its infrastructure business, including elevators in China and trains in the U.K., as well as semiconductor fabrication. The company upgraded its earnings forecast for the April-September half.

     Panasonic logged a 28% rise in operating profit to 82.2 billion yen thanks to structural reforms, including a withdrawal from plasma televisions, and strong sales of solar power generation systems, construction materials and other housing-related products. Its automotive equipment business also fared well.

     Toshiba reported record profit on higher earnings from power-related operations at home and abroad, while Sony's earnings got a boost from land sales despite a slump in its smartphone business. The combined operating profit of the eight largest electronics makers -- including Sharp, whose results are due out Friday -- is expected to surge roughly 80% to near where it was before the global financial crisis erupted in 2008.

     The earnings recovery has spread to such businesses as Omron and Keyence, which make equipment related to chip fabrication, and Advantest, a producer of semiconductor-testing devices.

     Combined pretax profit at the 62 electronics companies grew an estimated 170 billion yen or so from a year earlier -- roughly 70% of the total gain for listed Japanese companies as a whole. The electronics industry, whose earnings expansion had lagged behind the automobile industry's, has become the main driver of earnings growth. Automakers are seen logging a 110 billion yen gain, while machinery manufacturers are expected to post a 70 billion yen increase.

     But Japanese electronics companies pale in comparison to foreign giants when it comes to profits. South Korea's Samsung Electronics reported a roughly 7.2 trillion won ($7 billion) operating profit for the April-June quarter. Although the figure was down 25% on the year, it exceeded the combined profits of Japan's top eight players.

(Nikkei)

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