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Matsushita Fourth-Quarter Profit Rises 15%

Panasonic maker Matsushita posted on Monday a 15 percent rise in quarterly operating profit thanks to brisk sales of flat TVs, and forecast a larger-than-expected gain this year, with its mobile phones and DVD recorders also selling well.

Matsushita Electric Industrial, the world's No.1 plasma TV maker ahead of Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, benefits from its large-scale, cost-efficient panel production facilities in western Japan.

The company, which will change its name to Panasonic Corp on Oct 1, said it expected operating profit to grow 7.8 percent to 560 billion yen ($5.4 billion) in the current year to March 2009, beating a consensus of 527.98 billion yen in a poll of 18 analysts by Reuters Estimates.

"Flat TVs will continue to drive growth and we will keep expanding sales of mobile phones, digital cameras, and air conditioners," Makoto Uenoyama, Matsushita director in charge of financing and accounting, told a news conference.

Matsushita is planning to spend 300 billion yen to build a LCD panel plant in western Japan by 2010 as it aims to boost its presence in the faster-growing LCD TV market, where it has not been able to break into the ranks of the top five.

The company, after issuing a denial earlier in the day, said no more about a Yomiuri newspaper report that it may tie up with smaller rival Sanyo Electric in the first reorganisation move among Japan's top electronics makers.

Quarterly operating profit totalled 134.1 billion yen in the three months to March, calculated by deducting nine-month profits from annual results, up from 116.32 billion yen a year earlier.

For the full year ended March 31, Matsushita said operating profit came rose 13 percent to 519.5 billion yen. Annual net profit rose 30 percent to 281.88 billion yen on sales of 9.07 trillion yen, down 0.4 percent.

Matsushita's earnings announcement follows that of rival Sharp, which on Friday posted its first annual profit fall in six years as it grapples with tough competition in the flat TV market.

Shares in Matsushita closed up 0.7 percent at 2,135 yen ahead of the announcement, outperforming the Tokyo stock market's electrical machinery index, which rose 0.3 percent.

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