Panasonic: Tablet sales pushing display unit 'back to profit'

The ailing firm's display unit will return to profit, says the senior executive in charge of the division, as it sets its sights on the first quarterly profit in five years in the coming January.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Come January, Panasonic's display unit may report its first quarterly profit for the first five years, signalling the firm's return to walking strength after suffering an almighty crash to the firm's overall finances.

An increasing number of tablets are driving sales of the firm's liquid crystal display (LCD) panels for the Osaka, Japan-based company -- less so in the PC market, which continues to see declines across the board -- Panasonic's division head said on Thursday.

Panasonic senior vice resident Yoshio Ito told the Reuters news agency the firm was, "now making displays for more than 10 models of tablets and PCs," speaking from the former television making factory, now a research and development (R&D) unit.

Sales of the firm's LCD panels will generate around 60 percent of the unit's sales during the October-March fiscal second half, compared to a meager 30 percent during the first fiscal half-year. 

The LCD display unit, part of Panasonic's audio/visual unit, recorded a one-quarter drop in sales during the second quarter, but remained overall in profit thanks to restructuring efforts. However, all eyes remain on the LCD display unit as the division powers some of the world's most popular smartphones and tablets with its array of LCD displays and panels.

By doing this, the firm is turning away from building flat-panel LCD screens for televisions and focusing on smaller panels for smartphones and tablets, a method employed by its rival, Sharp, which is also facing financial difficulties.

The company, which has suffered in recent years through poor sales and a series of quarterly losses, recently let go another 10,000 workers, along with a further 36,000 during the past year alone, despite holding on to more than 330,000 employees worldwide. 

The global tablet market is expected to double to 113 million shipments, Gartner figures estimates, which will rise to 300 million by 2016, as the post-PC world begins to take shape. Gartner believes that business alone will buy 13 million tablets by the end of this calendar year, with that figure expected to rise by 400 percent to 53 million tablets bought by 2016.

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