Japanese electronics makers have reported strong first-quarter earnings results, with both Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. and Hitachi Ltd. posting sharp rebounds from the same period last year and Fujitsu Ltd. narrowing its net loss.
The companies credited their performances to brisk sales at home and abroad, including North America and Asia. All three companies said sales had increased sharply -- particularly of liquid crystal and plasma display panels, used in flat-screen televisions.
Strong growth in the U.S. and Asian economies, especially China, has helped boost demand for Japanese goods. Japan's economy also appears to be recovering from a slump of more than a decade long, and the companies marked a domestic sales increase in the first quarter.
Matsushita, known for its Panasonic brand, reported a profit of 32.8 billion yen (approx. U.S. $294 million) for the April-June period -- a 12- fold jump from 2.7 billion yen last year. Sales rose 19 percent to 2.102 trillion yen (approx. $18.82 billion) from 1.763 trillion yen a year earlier.
Hitachi marked a dramatic turnaround, reporting a profit of 16 billion yen (approx. $143.2 million) in contrast to a loss of 38.4 billion yen in the first quarter of fiscal 2003. Its sales rose 9 percent to 2.06 trillion yen (approx. $18.5 billion) for the first quarter.
Meanwhile, Fujitsu narrowed its losses to 11.8 billion yen (approx. $106 million) from 39.8 billion yen in the same quarter last year. Its sales rose 7.4 percent to 1.01 trillion yen (approx. $9.1 billion).
Matsushita raised its earnings outlook for the first half of the fiscal year through September, saying it expected a group net profit of 45 billion yen (approx. $402.9 million), up from its previous estimate of 28 billion yen (approx. $250.7 million). However, the company reaffirmed its full-year earnings estimate of 63 billion yen (approx. $564 million), citing uncertainties about interest rate hikes in the U.S. and China, which could potentially affect sales in those major markets.
Hitachi and Fujitsu both maintained their outlooks. Hitachi kept its first-half forecast for 25 billion yen (approx. $223.8 million) in group net profit. Fujitsu still projects a group net profit of 70 billion yen (approx. $626.7 million) for the fiscal year ending March 2005. (AP)
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