Sharp and Panasonic ride the solar wave

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Japanese electronics giants Sharp and Panasonic are benefiting from the domestic solar boom which saw the former's solar cells sales grow 101 per cent from January to March compared with the same period in 2012.

Sharp's solar cells division posted first quarter operating income of JPY6.8 billion (US$68.3 million) as it turned around the JPY6.9 billion losses in the same period last year.

In a press release reporting the figures, Sharp said the division scored sales of JPY84.3 billion, a 101 per cent year on year increase from last year's JPY41.9 billion.

With a boom in domestic residential and utility scale solar in Japan being driven by generous government FITs, solar contributed a turnaround after the cells division posted losses in the first three quarters of last year.

The parent company's net sales, operating income, and net income exceeded forecasts and Sharp has revised its full year forecast upward based on recent results.

The Osaka company says it plans to expand its product lineup to cover various shapes of roof and enhance sales and promotions for residential; complete construction of mega-solar power plants through timely product supply and construction support; and expand its solar solution and developer businesses overseas.

The corporation has upgraded its solar cells division forecast to a yearly operating income of JPY13 billion, compared to the JPY4.4 billion losses posted in 2012.

Panasonic's soaring domestic sales

Fellow Osaka multinational Panasonic released its second quarter results on Wednesday with a similar sense of triumphalism.

The company's Eco Solutions division, which manufactures solar photovoltaic systems, increased sales 6% to JPY411.6 billion, from JPY387.9 billion a year ago.

This, Panasonic said, is partly due "to significant sales growth in solar business of Energy Systems BD in a surge in consumer spending ahead of the purchasing price revision in Japan's FIT for electricity."

Eco Solution's profit in the second quarter of 2013 increased 344% to JPY16.1 billion from JPY3.6 billion a year ago, due mainly to sales increases.

Panasonic had announced in May the closure of its wafer production plant in Oregon, U.S. while its solar cell plant in Dorog, Hungary is set to shut in March, prompting the loss of 500 factory worker jobs.

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