Panasonic’s business may still be facing challenges on multiple fronts, but the company’s battery business, particularly its partnership with American electric car maker Tesla, is proving to be a point of strength. In an announcement on Tuesday, Panasonic noted that it expects a group net profit of 150 billion yen ($1.43 billion) for the year ending in March, just as its battery supply business with Tesla approaches its first full-year profit.
As noted in a Nikkei Asia report, Panasonic’s automotive division, which supplies Tesla’s batteries in Gigafactory Nevada, improved its earnings by posting an operating loss of 7.4 billion yen for the three quarters through December. This is a notable improvement compared to its figures in the previous year when the company posted an operating loss of 29.2 billion yen.
In a statement to the media, Hirokazu Umeda, chief financial officer for the Japanese company, stated that Panasonic now sees its operations with Tesla at the Nevada-based battery plant approaching a full-year profit. “Tesla operations are at a situation in which we can foresee a full-year profit,” Umeda said.
A good part of Panasonic’s improved automotive battery business could be attributed to the optimizations that have been employed at Gigafactory Nevada over the past years, which has allowed the facility to improve its output. Sustained demand for the Model 3 and Model Y, which rely on the batteries produced at Gigafactory Nevada, also provides Panasonic with some positive outlook.
While Panasonic’s automotive battery business with Tesla is proving lucrative, however, the Japanese conglomerate is facing some notable challenges in the form of more aggressive companies like China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. and South Korea’s LG Chem, both of which have already gained battery partnerships with the US-based EV maker for its Giga Shanghai facility. Both CATL and LG Chem are aggressively expanding their battery business, with the South Korean firm even noting that it is looking to take the title of Tesla’s biggest battery supplier in the future.
Panasonic held third place among onboard battery makers worldwide in 2020 with an 18% share, as per data from Tokyo-based Techno Systems Research. Panasonic previously held the title of world’s top battery maker until 2018, but “CATL and LG Chem will be fighting for first place from now on,” Tang Jin, senior research officer at Japan’s Mizuho Bank, remarked.
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