Japanese Financial Roundup

Major Japanese electronics manufacturers reported mixed results for the quarter ended June 30, with Mitsubishi and Sharp posting sales gains, while Hitachi and JVC did not. Most electronics firms begin their fiscal year on April 1, making June 30 the end of the first quarter.

Mitsubishi Electric's consumer electronics division posted a 12% increase in sales, totaling $1.6 billion, up from $1.5 billion reported for the same period a year ago. Profits were off, however, which the company attributed to declining prices. Mitsubishi's operating income dropped from $108.2 million for the first quarter in 2002 to $40.9 million for the most recent. Mitsubishi's consolidated sales—the company also makes automobiles and industrial equipment—were $6.2 billion, a 2% rise over the $6 billion a year ago, with overall operating income up 16% to $74.4 million, from $64.2 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Net income slid from $7.1 in the first quarter of 2002 to $5.5 million for the most recent three months.

Sharp Electronics reported a 3.9% rise in sales of audio/video equipment, totaling $1.6 billion for the quarter, up from $1.5 billion in the same period last year. Operating income for Sharp's A/V and communications division was up 17%, at $59.1 million, compared with $50.6 million in the same quarter in 2002. Sharp has enjoyed excellent success with its flat-panel LCD televisions and monitors—up 8.8% from last year—but has suffered from declining sales of personal computers. Operating income for the combined operations (A/V and computers) rose 5.9% during the quarter to $38.2 million, up from $36.1 million for the same period last year. Sharp's consolidated sales hit $4.3 billion in the first quarter, a rise of 7.2% over last year's $4 billion. Operating income was up 12.1% to $242.7 million, compared with $216.6 million in the first quarter a year ago. Net income rose 13.5%, reaching $117.7 million from $103.7 million in the first quarter of 2002.

Hitachi's consumer electronics sales dropped 3%, despite its success with plasma display panels (PDPs) and mobile phones. The company, which also makes heavy equipment, household appliances, and blank media (under the Maxell name), reported a sales decrease to $2.47 billion, from $2.52 billion last year. Hitachi's CE division reported a $4 million operating loss for the quarter, compared with $54.6 million in operating income last year. As did its competitors, Hitachi blamed declining prices. North American sales slid 2% in the first quarter to $1.78 billion, from $1.81 billion in the same period in 2002. Evidence of increasing competition and wider supplies, total revenue from large LCD screens dropped 28% in the first quarter to $216.2 million, from last year's $299.4 million. Hitachi's consolidated sales were up 2% for the quarter to $15.8 billion, compared with $15.5 billion last year, but the company posted an operating loss of $281 million versus last year's $113.9 million. The company predicts a 2% rise in net sales for the first two quarters of this year.

For JVC, consumer electronics sales dropped 13.3% in the first quarter, primarily due to declining demand for older technologies—VCRs, VHS-C video cameras, and CRT-based television sets. JVC reported quarterly sales of $1.2 billion, down from $1.4 billion last year. Bright spots for the electronics maker were DVD players, digital cameras, and projection television sets. JVC is also strong in the audio/video software realm, reporting a 2% sales increase in a category that includes blank media as well as pre-recorded music and video. The company's media and software division posted sales of $301.5 million for the quarter, an appreciable increase over last year's $295.3 million. Overall, JVC's financial picture improved considerably compared to the same period last year: a net income of $619,869, versus 2002's net loss of $15.1 million.