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Friday, Jan. 11, 2008

Matsushita, and its products, to only go by Panasonic name


Staff writer

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. announced Thursday it will rename itself Panasonic Corp. and end the National brand so that its products will be exclusively referred to as Panasonic.

Matsushita, which was founded in 1918 by entrepreneur Konosuke Matsushita, said Matsushita will be dropped from the company name in October.

Matsushita currently markets all of its products overseas under the Panasonic brand, but uses the National label for home appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines sold on the domestic market.

Apparently concluding that its current practice was blurring its image on the world market, Matsushita is dropping both the founder's name from the firm and the National brand from its products. The National brand is scheduled to disappear by March 2010.

During a news conference in Osaka, also viewed in its Tokyo offices for reporters and analysts here, President Fumio Otsubo stressed that the change in the company name will be made so that its employees can be unified under a single brand.

"Until now, various activities of all our employees in the Matsushita group were divided into the three names of Matsushita, Panasonic and National," Otsubo said. "We need to concentrate their effort under a single value of Panasonic."

He also raised concern that the company's brand value has not been as high as the popularity of its products and support for its business strategy.

"Unfortunately, we came to the conclusion this was partly because of the three names we had," Otsubo said.

The move will cost Matsushita about ¥30 billion in the next year, including changing corporate signs, he said.

Otsubo said he instructed his staff to start considering the possibility to change the company name last fall, and relayed his decision to Masaharu Matsushita, Matsushita's honorary chairman and a son-in-law of the founder, last month.

Analysts welcomed the decision, saying the move will help the firm spread its image abroad as it focuses on overseas sales in line with its midterm business strategy.

"In Japan, many people know that Panasonic is a Matsushita brand, but that is not the case overseas," said Kazuharu Miura, a senior analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research. "Many people overseas recognize the Panasonic brand but not the name Matsushita."

Matsushita had to go with Panasonic if it hoped to expand sales and profits in the global market, Miura said. Another analyst said the move shows Matsushita is shifting from cost-cutting to a more positive restructuring stage eyeing further expansion.

"It gives the impression that the reform of Matsushita is proceeding," said Hideki Watanabe, senior analyst at Shinko Securities Co. "This kind of decision would have been impossible in the past."

Watanabe noted that Matsushita, which at one time was criticized for the slow decision-making and inefficiency that is typical of giant companies, carried out a drastic reform program under former President Kunio Nakamura, who took over in 2000.

"This was one of the aims that Mr. Nakamura could not accomplish," Watanabe said. "It means the current president Mr. Otsubo now has enough authority to do what he wants to do."

Watanabe believes Matsushita is better off changing its name to Panasonic to clarify that the electronics appliances that are sometimes hooked up with home appliances come from the same maker, he said.



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