Matsushita's Profits

MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL COMPANY, the world's largest consumer-electronics company, reported sharply higher profits Wednesday as gains in Japan's domestic market made up for weaker demand abroad. The maker of National, Panasonic, and Technics brand name audio and video equipment posted group net profits of 213.46 billion yen ($1.49 billion) in the year ended March 31, a 30 percent jump from the previous year.

Sales grew 9 percent to 5.5 trillion yen.

Although the strong yen clipped profits overseas, domestic sales were buoyed by active consumer spending and private capital investment at home.

New products and streamlined production processes improved margins.

``Sales of electronic components and equipment for the information industry went through the roof,'' managing director Kazuhiko Toyama told reporters.

The giant Osaka-based company is cautiously optimistic about the current fiscal year.

It predicted that group net profit would rise 8.2 percent, to 231 billion yen ($1.62 billion), as sales expanded 4.7 percent, to 5.76 trillion yen ($40.3 billion).

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