Panasonic may halve its headquarters

Panasonic may halve its 7,000-strong headquarters as part of a bid to streamline the Japanese electronics giant and turn a profit following a record annual loss, according to media reports.

The Osaka-based firm is looking at shrinking its main office by between 3,000 and 4,000 staff, mainly through early retirements and employee transfers to subsidiaries, the Nikkei business daily and Jiji Press reported.

Talks with labour unions on the changes are expected to begin as early as July, the Nikkei said, adding that the move was partly aimed at speeding up decision-making at the headquarters.

A Panasonic spokeswoman said: "The reports were not something that our company has announced. We are considering reforms of the headquarters, but it's not true that we have reached a decision now."

The company posted a record 772.2 billion yen ($9.7 billion) loss for the fiscal year to March 2012, although it has said it expects to book a net profit of 50 billion yen in the current year.

Panasonic, like its rival Sony which posted a record 456.66-billion-yen annual loss, has long suffered in its television business and its debt also soared due to the purchase of smaller rival Sanyo.

Panasonic President Fumio Ohtsubo has previously announced he would step down following the massive losses, which sent the company's shares to 30-year lows.

Japan's electronics sector has been badly hit by the appreciation of the yen, which makes exporters' products less competitive overseas, while falling prices and slow demand at home have also eaten into profits.

Competitors including South Korea's Samsung and US-based Apple are offering stiff competition, with high resolution display technology a key battleground as demand intensifies for smartphones, tablet computers and other gadgets.

Panasonic has already announced a major restructuring of its liquid crystal display manufacturing division, and is reportedly considering shifting all of its mobile phone handset production overseas amid high costs at home.

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