Matsushita Electric the world’s largest consumer-electronics maker, will increase plasma panel production capacity 44 percent by July to meet demand for its Panasonic brand televisions.

Monthly capacity will rise to 425,000 42-inch panels, from 295,000. The company will start production at its factory in Amagasaki city, near Osaka, in June 2006, about four months ahead of schedule. “We expect strong demand for large panel televisions, with events like the World Cup next year and the Beijing Olympics in 2008,” said Ken Morita, president of Matsushita’s plasma display unit, at its factory in Amagasaki.

The Osaka-based company’s Amagasaki factory, the world’s biggest plasma display-making plant, will help boost production yield and compensate for price declines. Falling prices have dented earnings at rivals such as Sony Corp. and Pioneer Corp. Matsushita is raising production ahead of the Winter Olympics in February and the World Cup soccer tournament next year to meet rising demand for TVs. The company also said today it is raising production at its Shanghai factory to 25,000 panels a month from 20,000.

Shares Rally

Shares of Matsushita have gained almost 50 percent this year, outpacing Sony, Pioneer, Sharp, Sanyo and other electronics makers’. The Topix Electric Appliances Index, which tracks shares of 162 Japanese electronics makers, has gained 35 percent this year.  In the fiscal second quarter, Matsushita’s profit rose a more-than-expected 32 percent to 31 billion yen, led by demand for plasma display televisions and digital cameras. Operating profit, or sales minus the cost of goods sold and administrative expenses, rose 11 percent to 125.1 billion yen.

Sales fell to 2.211 trillion yen from 2.216 trillion yen as revenue from mobile phones dropped.  For the year ending March 31, Matsushita kept its forecasts unchanged at 110 billion yen for net income on sales of 8.72 trillion yen, citing a possible slowdown in the semiconductor industry and rising material costs due to higher oil prices.


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