Panasonic sold $1 bln in shares to underpin finances-sources


Panasonic Corp <6752.T> sold some $1 billion worth of stocks in companies such as Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> as part of a plan to offload assets to bolster its finances, two sources with knowledge of the deals said.

Panasonic booked a gain of 30 billion yen ($308 million) from the sales -- which also included stakes in Honda Motor Co <7267.T> and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp <5401.T> -- in the year ended March 31, the Nikkei business daily reported earlier. Panasonic and other Japanese companies commonly own cross-shareholding stakes in their suppliers and customers to cement business ties.

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The sales, which come amid a 34 percent rally in Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index since the start of the year, likely mean Panasonic exceeded a plan to sell 130 billion yen of assets last business year, the sources said on condition they were not identified.

Panasonic has said it will use asset sales to ensure that its annual free cashflow stays at a minimum of 200 billion yen over the next few years as the company sells or closes units that fail to achieve at least a 5 percent operating profit margin. It is also aiming to cut debt levels from 976 billion yen at the end of December to 220 billion yen by March 2016.

The maker of Viera televisions is drawing back from loss-making consumer electronics in favor of expanding units that build machinery and components that are sold to other businesses.

Panasonic's shares rose 1.6 percent in Tokyo on Thursday compared with a 0.5 percent dip in the Nikkei 225 index.

($1 = 97.3450 Japanese yen)

(Reporting by Reiji Murai; writing by Tim Kelly; Editing by Stephen Coates)