Panasonic responds to solar expansion scale back rumors

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On Tuesday, October 30, Reuters, quoting anonymous Panasonic sources, said that the Japanese electronics giant may scale back its plans to ramp photovoltaic module capacity up to 1.5 GW.

A spokesperson told pv magazine that work on Panasonic’s new 300 MW wafer, cell and module Malaysian manufacturing facility is still ongoing and is scheduled to be opened in December "if all goes to plan". Around US$552.6 million has been invested in the facility, which is expected to employ approximately 1,500 workers.

In addition to its manufacturing facilities in Hungary, Japan and the U.S., which have a combined capacity of 680 MW, Panasonic will have a cumulative capacity of 980 MW when the new Malaysian works comes online. The spokesperson declined to comment on the capacity currently in operation, however, and did not respond to queries about a 1.5 GW capacity expansion.

The spokesperson said that research work on Panasonic’s next generation of HIT technology is "proceeding as planned". "We are aiming to achieve the world’s highest conversion efficiency," they said, adding, "Panasonic will judge the timing of investment for the commercialization considering the market situation and cash flow," and that the company will "continuously review the investment as part of the mid-term plan."

In announcing its 2H 2012 financial results, the Panasonic Group recorded sales of Yen 3,638.2 billion (around US$45.6 billion; €35.1 billion), down 9% from Yen 4,005.2 billion in 2H 2011. Of this figure, energy sales accounted for Yen 292.5 billion, down from Yen 307.7 billion in 2011.

"This result was due mainly to sales decreases in consumer-use lithium-ion batteries, and solar photovoltaic systems in Europe. Segment profit improved to 2.8 billion yen compared with a loss of 9.8 billion yen a year ago due mainly to fixed cost reductions and streamlining material costs," it said in a statement released.

Meanwhile, net loss for the period hit Yen 685.2 billion, compared to a loss of Yen 136.2 billion a year ago. The statement added, "Under such business circumstances, Panasonic has been working towards filtering unprofitable models and enhancing BtoB businesses with one of its basic guidelines, ‘Focus on Profitability’."

For 2013, the company has lowered its full year sales forecast downwards, from Yen 8,100 billion to Yen 7,300 billion "due mainly to worsening market conditions in digital consumer products and the slowdown economy in emerging countries."

Meanwhile, net loss is expected to be Yen 765 billion, as opposed to Panasonic’s original forecast of an income totaling Yen 50 billion.