The profit increase comes as Panasonic took control of Spanish
automotive mirror manufacturer Ficosa International SA to expand
its automotive push, boosting its automotive sales.
In the same quarter, in June, Panasonic began battery cell
production for Tesla Inc's mass-market Model 3 electric vehicle
at their $5 billion "Gigafactory".
"For battery cells for the Model 3, costs outweighed profit in
the first quarter," financial chief Hirokazu Umeda said at an
earnings briefing. "As production accelerates towards next year,
we expect the business to contribute profit."
Panasonic said April-June profit rose to 83.93 billion yen
($758.93 million) from 71.81 billion yen a year earlier. That
compared with the 86.14 billion yen average of 9 analyst
estimates in a poll by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The firm maintained its 335 billion yen operating profit
forecast for the year ending March, versus the 344.23 billion
yen average of 17 analyst estimates.
Panasonic is reinventing itself as a supplier of automotive
batteries, advanced electronics auto parts and energy-saving
home systems to escape the price competition of smartphones and
lower-margin consumer products.
The shift, led by Chief Executive Officer Kazuhiro Tsuga who
took the helm of the conglomerate five years ago, was initially
not fast enough to offset lost revenue from the declining
consumer electronics business.
The firm expects a change this year as it starts shipments of
advanced electronics devices to major car makers as well as
battery cell production for Tesla's Model 3 in Nevada.
The Model 3 marks a turning point for Tesla as it transitions
from a niche luxury car manufacturer to a mass producer. The
500,000 vehicles the company plans to make next year is nearly
six times its 2016 production.
($1 = 110.5900 yen)
(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
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