Panasonic to sell Ibaraki plant, birthplace of its TV business: Report

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's electronics giant Panasonic will sell the plant where it first got into the television business half a century ago as it shifts away from the money-losing division, a report said on Saturday.

The company plans to sell 60 per cent of the plant's 120,000-square-metre site in Ibaraki, near the western city of Osaka, to Japan's major homebuilder Daiwa House by early next year, the business daily Nikkei said.

The price tag is estimated at 10 billion yen (S$122.5 million). Daiwa House is expected to build a large-scale logistics facility at the site and lease it to parcel delivery company Yamato Holdings Co., Nikkei said.

Panasonic is also considering selling the remaining 40 per cent of the site to the municipal administration of Ibaraki and its homebuilding unit, PanaHome, Nikkei said. The property could then be retrofitted for public facilities and residential use.

No officials were immediately available at Panasonic's head office to confirm the report.

The plant started producing cathode ray tube sets in 1958, and helped turn Matsushita Electric Industrial - as Panasonic was then known - into a global electronics company.

In 2001, Panasonic converted the facility into a plasma TV plant handling everything from making panels to assembling the sets. The company shifted most of the operations in 2005 to a new plant in nearby Amagasaki.

Panasonic said in April it posted its first annual net profit in three years and reversed a huge loss suffered in the previous 12 months as it presses on with a sweeping restructuring.

The company, along with rivals Sony and Sharp, has struggled in recent years, largely because of huge losses in their television units - but a sharply weaker yen over the past year has helped boost their bottom line. These firms have stopped production of plasma television panels as they continued efforts to improve their battered balance sheets.

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