Samsung surges ahead as Japanese trio falter

Japan's biggest makers of TVs, phones, and chips say they'll lose about US$19 billion ($22.8 billion) this year - about three-quarters of what Samsung will spend on research to lengthen the lead over its competitors.

Sony more than doubled its annual loss forecast for the year ending March 31 as it announced a new chief executive officer, while Panasonic and Sharp predicted the worst losses in their histories. Their combined losses compare with the US$26 billion that Samsung, Asia's biggest consumer-electronics company, said it will invest in capital expenditure.

Japanese companies, hurt by a stronger yen, floods that swamped Thailand factories, and weaker demand for their TVs, may not be able to regain ground lost to Samsung and Apple Inc. That's prompting Sony and Panasonic to focus on sectors including medical devices, solar panels, and rechargeable batteries in an effort to revive earnings.

Samsung is the world's biggest maker of TVs, memory chips, and flat-screen panels, and the second-biggest manufacturer of mobile phones. The South Korea-based company plans to spend 47.8 trillion won ($50 billion) this year on new product research and upgrading plants. It reported a 17 per cent rise in fourth-quarter net income.

Sony, Japan's biggest electronics exporter, predicted its loss in the year ending March will widen to 220 billion ($3 billion), and Panasonic, Japan's biggest appliance maker, forecast a US$12 billion loss, the worst since it was founded in 1918.

Sharp predicted a US$4.5 billion loss, its worst in a century.

- BLOOMBERG

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