Panasonic CEO leaves with cash lined up for car batteries


Kazuhiro Tsuga, chief executive officer at Panasonic Corp, at the company's office in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday, March 8,2021. After almost nine years as CEO at Panasonic, Tsuga says he is handing off a leaner business with enough cash to invest in new areas such as overseas manufacturing, upgraded battery technology for its partnership with Tesla Inc. and air-cleaning and conditioning.

TOKYO: After almost nine years as chief executive officer of Panasonic Corp, Kazuhiro Tsuga says he is handing off a leaner business with enough cash to invest in new areas such as overseas manufacturing, upgraded battery technology for its partnership with Tesla Inc and air-cleaning and conditioning.

Panasonic is embarking on a corporate revamp that will usher in automotive business head Yuki Kusumi as CEO from April, who will then spend a year reshaping the iconic electronics conglomerate into a holding company.

The new structure, in turn, will make it easier to decide where to invest for long-term growth, Tsuga said in an interview this week.

One of these areas is Panasonic’s business of supplying batteries for electric vehicles.

There, it is looking at several capital-intensive projects, including a new battery factory in Europe and mass production of a more powerful lithium-ion battery cell.

“Electric vehicles are just at their beginning and in order to keep developing our battery technology, this requires a lot of cash, ” Tsuga said in the interview.

Tsuga took the reins at Osaka-based Panasonic in 2012, just as the company posted its worst-ever loss of 772 billion yen (US$7.1bil or RM29bil) amid a slump in its core consumer-electronics business.

Slashing costs and cutting loose the struggling plasma TV operations and other loss-making segments, Tsuga gradually restored reserves.

At the end of 2020, Panasonic had about one trillion yen in cash and cash equivalents, more than double what it held in 2012.

“We need to continue to invest to keep growing, ” Tsuga said. “We have ample room to do that.” — Bloomberg

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