Panasonic Corp., the world's largest maker of consumer electronics, will seek to buy control of Sanyo Electric Co. as it expands into the solar power business, the Nikkei newspaper reported without citing its sources.
Panasonic will begin negotiations with Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and Daiwa Securities SMBC Co., the three biggest shareholders in Osaka-based Sanyo, Nikkei said.
Akira Kadota, a Tokyo-based spokesman at Panasonic, declined to comment on the reports. Hiroyuki Okamoto, a spokesman for Sanyo, said he isn't aware of any such negotiations.
Goldman and the two Japanese banks hold about 430 million Sanyo preferred shares, worth 620 billion yen ($6.3 billion) and equivalent to 70 percent of the equity of the world's biggest maker of rechargeable batteries.
The three bailed out Sanyo in February 2006 in return for the securities, which they agreed to hold until March 2009. They need Sanyo's approval to sell the shares before then. Spokeswomen at Goldman and Sumitomo Mitsui declined to comment. No one answered calls to Daiwa's Tokyo office.
Sanyo, the world's leading maker of lithium ion batteries and the third-biggest solar panel producer in Japan, spent years losing money as competition prevented it from profiting on digital cameras and other consumer goods. The company refocused on rechargeable batteries and solar panels after the bailout, scaling back unprofitable businesses such as computer chips.
Panasonic is looking to expand into the fast-growing solar market, while batteries hold growth potential as carmakers move to develop electric vehicles, according to the report.
U.S. solar power installations grew by 45 percent last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Sanyo plans to expand solar cell production capacity by 60 percent at a Japanese plant, Kyodo News said yesterday.
Sanyo, whose name means “three oceans,'' also teamed up with Volkswagen AG, Europe's largest carmaker, to develop a lithium-ion battery system for use in hybrid cars.
Panasonic has fared relatively better than Japan's other electronics makers during the current global economic slump. Less reliance on overseas demand compared with rivals including Sony Corp., coupled with strong demand for appliances such as washing machines in China and other markets, helped support profitability. The company beat its second-quarter profit estimates on Oct. 28.
Combined projected sales of Panasonic and Sanyo for the year ending March 31 are about 11.2 trillion yen, according to company forecasts. That would surpass Hitachi Ltd. as the nation's biggest maker of electrical equipment, and catapult Panasonic to the No. 3 spot in revenue among listed Japanese companies.