Only weeks after Japanese brands Hitachi and Fujitsu rationalised their flat panel TV operations by quitting the Australian market due to massive losses, JVC has announced a tie-up in which they will jointly develop and assemble flat-panel TVs. The news has surprised many as several Japanese companies are wallowing in losses, including plasma manufacturer Pioneer which despite extensive marketing in Australia were only able to capture 1% of the flat panel TV market in Australia.
The news has surprised many as several Japanese companies are wallowing in losses including plasma manufacturer Pioneer Electronics which despite extensive marketing in Australia were only able to capture 1% of the flat panel TV market for their high end Kuro Plasma TV.
It has also emerged that cracks are starting to appear in the relationship between Pioneer and Sharp which late last year rescued Pioneer from big losses and an uncertain future.
JVC who are now moving into the LCD TV market were rescued by Kenwood, a Japanese peer, last year after the collapse of protracted discussions with private equity firm Texas Pacific Group. It had been loss-making for four years.
Yesterday JVC said it expected to incur a net loss of $303m in the year ending March and reported a $420m loss in the nine months ending December.
Starting next month, JVC will supply LCD TVs made at a factory in Mexico to Funai. Funai will supply JVC with televisions made at its factory in Poland. The two companies plan to develop LCD TVs together in the fiscal year starting April.
Other Japanese manufacturers have consolidated to compete globally with larger, more profitable peers such as Samsung, Sharp and Sony.
Last month, Hitachi in effect pulled out of LCD panel production when it announced it would sell a loss-making subsidiary to Canon and its stake in IPS Alpha – another LCD panel business – to Matsushita.
Hitachi is one of Japan’s most sprawling companies with nearly 100 subsidiaries.Toshiba and Sharp recently announced a similar agreement, in which Sharp will provide the integrated electronics company with flat-panel displays.
But analysts have said the terms of many tie-ups are too vague, with not enough consolidation in production. Though JVC and Funai said they would supply each other with TVs from their assembly factories, JVC said there were no plans to consolidate the factories.
Separately, Sanyo said yesterday it would dissolve its TV development joint venture with Quanta Computer, the Taiwanese manufacturer of notebook personal computers. Sanyo will buy out Quanta’s 19 per cent stake in the venture, making it a wholly owned unit.
The Japanese company, which is restructuring its businesses in an attempt to get back in the black, last week sold its mobile phone business to rival Kyocera.
Cracks are also starting to appear in the relationship between Pioneer and Sharp Tom Haga, chairman and chief executive of Pioneer Electronics in the USA, sounded a critical note over the company’s alliance with Sharp. “You think Sharp is a more updated company than Pioneer? I don’t think so,” he said.
“We are the same, we are both old Japanese companies. This collaboration does not give us an updated or contemporary way of management at all.”
The absence of full-scale M&A in Japan’s electronics sector is glaring – particularly cross-border deals – and observers question whether domestic tie-ups will enable the country’s manufacturers to regain their competitive edge. Mr Haga says the survival of Japanese electronics makers is “a question I have been receiving every day from investors and analysts . . . we have to realise we have to change. But Japanese companies are part of a nation that is really stuck in old ways”.
With the valuations of some weaker electronics companies plummeting, analysts say the time should be ripe for acquisitions.But thanks to the flurry of partnerships, cross-shareholdings are once again rising, protecting them from potential hostile suitors.