Panasonic to buy out Sanyo for almost $10 bn: Sources

Panasonic to buy out Sanyo for almost $10 bn: Sources

Tokyo: Japan’s Panasonic Corp plans to buy the shares it does not already own in Sanyo Electric and another unit, four sources said, in a deal that could top $10 billion and strengthen its push into greener businesses.

Panasonic plans to raise up to ¥500 billion ($5.7 billion) in a new share issue to help it finance the buyouts, two sources said, weighing on the company’s share price.

As the world’s No.4 flat TV maker speeds up a restructuring, four sources with knowledge of the matter said Panasonic would buy the remaining shares in Sanyo Electric Co and Panasonic Electric Works Co Ltd.

The move is key to Panasonic’s strategy of shifting focus to energy and environment-related businesses as it struggles to boost profits in overseas markets amid tough price competition from South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics. It has said it would withdraw from overlapping business with Sanyo.

A deal would also make it easier for Panasonic to put more resources into its promising businesses such as solar power and lithium ion batteries.

“The cost may not be small, but I think investors will welcome the deal as Panasonic can boost its rapidly growing environment-related business," said Okasan Securities analyst Kazumasa Kubota.

“With only its audio and visual business, the firm could not expect to grow dramatically."

Panasonic bought a 50% stake in Sanyo in December for about $4 billion, gaining control of the world’s top maker of rechargeable batteries and a producer of solar cells. It owns 51% of Panasonic Electric Works, which makes housing materials and lighting equipment.

Based on current market prices, acquiring the shares it does not own would cost Panasonic about ¥720 billion ($8.2 billion). A typical premium could push the value of the deal to above ¥900 billion.

Panasonic is considering a public cash offering and share swap to complete the transaction and could make an official announcement of its plans this week, according to the sources, who were not authorised to speak publicly about the deal.

It is looking at raising funds to finance the deal, and a new share issue is seen as one option, sources said.

“The move will be good for Panasonic’s long-term strategy, but investors are worried about how many new shares it will issue. We anticipated the deal but thought it would be done by a share swap," said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management.

At 9:31am, Panasonic shares were down 8.6% at 1,067 yen, underperforming a 0.3% fall in the benchmark Nikkei average.

Sanyo shares soared 24% to ¥146 while Panasonic Electric Works was untraded amid a rush of buy orders.

Under President Fumio Ohtsubo, Panasonic has been shifting away from low-margin home electronics products and investing more aggressively in solar cells, batteries and other energy-related areas with promising growth prospects.

Ohtsubo unveiled a new three-year business plan in May under which Panasonic is aiming to roughly double its operating profit margin to 5 percent or more by March 2013, while boosting sales by a third to 10 trillion yen.

Panasonic and Sanyo have planned to withdraw from overlapping businesses that would account for 300 billion yen in annual revenue and merge the development and production of white goods.