Panasonic appoints first woman to board

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 March, 2013, 4:17am

Panasonic named the first female board member in its 95-year history while trimming the executive ranks as the electronics company tries to lower costs and speed up decision-making after a record annual loss.

Japan's No2 television maker was adding Hiroko Ota, a former economic and fiscal policy minister teaching at Tokyo's National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, to its board, the firm said yesterday. The number of executive officers will drop to 21 from 30, partly because some are retiring without being replaced.

The changes come as president Kazuhiro Tsuga prepares to outline a revival plan as the company heads for its fourth annual loss in five years. The maker of Viera televisions is cutting jobs and the number of business units after posting a 772 billion yen (HK$64.83 billion) net loss in the year ended March 2012.

"We'd like to get diversified opinions from Ms Ota by getting her as an outside director," spokeswoman Chieko Gyobu said. The company is increasing its directors to 17 from 16, while the number of auditors remains at five. Panasonic booked a profit last quarter after eliminating 13,000 jobs, while closest domestic peer Sony reported a net loss. Sony also has a woman on its board, Yukako Uchinaga.

Panasonic fell 1.8 per cent to close at 659 yen in Tokyo trading yesterday, trimming its gain this year to 26 per cent. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index fell 1.3 per cent.

Tsuga is set to announce a new medium-term plan next month that may include reforms for unprofitable businesses. He plans to focus on divisions offering the highest profit margins, including beauty products, and decrease reliance on lower-margin products, including televisions and mobile phones.