KUSATSU, Japan (Reuters) - Panasonic Corp (6752.T) plans a new factory in Europe as early as next year to build as many as a million washing machines and a million refrigerators a year to tap growing demand in the region, particularly Russia, the head of the company’s appliance business said on Thursday.
Panasonic has yet to decide where in Europe to locate the new facility and may even consider acquiring an existing plant from another company, Kazunori Takami said in an interview at the company’s main appliance plant at Kusatsu in Shiga prefecture, western Japan. He declined to say how much it would spend on the plant.
The Japanese company currently has to ship washing machines and fridges it sells in Europe from factories in China or rely on third-party fabricators.
Despite a record 772 billion yen ($9.7 billion) net loss by Panasonic in the business year ended March 31, income is burgeoning at its appliance division, which also makes vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, hair dryers and other products.
Operating profit rose 2.1 billion yen to 61.3 billion yen last business year.
The Japanese consumer electronics firm hopes expanded sales of such appliances will help it return to profit growth and counter a slump in sales of its televisions amid weak demand and strong competition from foreign rivals such as Samsung Electronics (005930.KS).
“We would like to aim to be number one in appliances,” Takami said, pitting his company against the likes of Whirlpool (WHR.N), Electrolux (ELUXb.ST) and LG Electronics (066570.KS). ($1 = 79.4150 Japanese yen)
Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Michael Watson