From: Reuters
Published January 31, 2008 03:05 AM

Matsushita profit up 22 percent, outlook unchanged

TOKYO (Reuters) - Panasonic maker Matsushita <6752.T> reported a 22 percent gain in quarterly operating profit on brisk demand for its digital cameras and flat televisions, and it stood by its annual outlook that falls short of market expectations.

Matsushita has been weathering slowing growth in the plasma TV market relatively well because its hefty output capacity can help it cut production costs, but it now faces a firmer yen and the risk of a U.S. recession.

The Osaka-based company is the world's largest plasma TV maker and competes with Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS> and LG Electronics Inc <066570.KS>.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd, which will change its name to Panasonic Corp on October 1, stood by its operating profit forecast of 477 billion yen ($4.49 billion) for the year to March, up from 459.54 billion yen a year earlier.

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That is below the consensus of 493.8 billion yen in a poll of 20 analysts by Reuters Estimates.

Matsushita now plans heavy investments in liquid crystal display (LCD) panel capacity in an effort to boost its presence in the faster-growing LCD TV segment.

It held a 2.9 percent share in the global LCD TV market in the first nine months of 2007, trailing well behind Samsung's 18.2 percent and Sony Corp's <6758.T> 15.1 percent, according to data from research firm DisplaySearch.

Operating profit at Matsushita, which offers Lumix digital cameras and Viera flat TVs, came to 165.4 billion yen in October-December, up from 135.83 billion yen a year earlier.

Net profit rose 46 percent to 115.2 billion yen on sales of 2.34 trillion yen, down 3.8 percent. Shares in Matsushita closed up 8.7 percent at 2,250 yen ahead of the announcement, outperforming the Tokyo stock market's electrical machinery index <.IELEC.T>, which rose 2.7 percent. Matsushita shares had slid 4 percent since October through Wednesday, while the sub-index lost 21 percent.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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