Panasonic may sell its successful healthcare/medical device business to raise some badly needed money in the face of struggling plasma TV and consumer electronics sales. The price tag: $1.05 billion, according to at least two media accounts.
The Nikkei newspaper in Japan reported the news, while a Panasonic spokeswoman only confirmed to Bloomberg that the company is "seeking various growth strategies for the TV business." Reuters cites a Kyodo news agency story that Panasonic has already definitively decided to sell its healthcare business line, ideally to a single buyer, according to "industry sources." Both cite the rumored $1.05 billion price tag.
What this comes down to is that Panasonic, one of Japan's signature conglomerates, is losing substantial sums of money. And so the company is selling assets, eliminating jobs and streamlining in order to reverse its fortunes. Bloomberg reports that the company's longer-term goal includes focusing on a smaller number of business units with the biggest profit margins--such as welding products and beauty appliances.
Panasonic's healthcare arm includes a wide range of biomedical and ultrasound imaging products. The division also offers robots that pick medication, LCD monitors, pain-relief lasers, blood glucose and lactate monitoring systems and dental cameras, among many other products. In the past year, Panasonic has also been viewed as potentially seeking to expand its offerings in the space, through rumored investments in rivals such as Olympus ($OCPNY), a Japanese maker of medical and camera equipment. The company has also been speculated as a possible buyer of Bayer's glucose meter unit. But rather than expand its healthcare division, it looks like Panasonic might just leave it behind entirely for the sake of debt reduction and streamlining.