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Panasonic Ups Stake In Sanyo

Company said it has raised its stake in Sanyo Electric -- a money-losing unit with strong battery and solar panel businesses -- to more than 80 percent.

TOKYO (AP) -- Panasonic has increased its stakes in two key subsidiaries through multibillion dollar tender offers as it pushes ahead with a strategy to strengthen its green technology businesses.

Panasonic Corp. said Thursday it had raised its stake in Sanyo Electric -- a money-losing unit with strong battery and solar panel businesses -- to more than 80 percent from 50 percent and would use a stock swap to take full ownership by the end of March.

Japan's largest consumer electronics company also completed a tender offer for Panasonic Electric which gave it a stake of nearly 84 percent, up from 51 percent.

That stake will also be lifted to 100 percent by offering Panasonic stock to the remaining shareholders in Panasonic Electric, which has lighting, electric and housing operations.

All told, Panasonic is spending up to 818.4 billion yen ($9.8 billion) on buying the two companies.

It became a majority shareholder in Sanyo Electric in December after a $4.6 billion deal that formed one of the world's largest electronics makers. Panasonic then launched a tender offer for the remaining shares that ran from Aug 23. through Oct. 6.

Panasonic, which makes Viera TVs and Lumix digital cameras, is facing tough competition not only from local rivals like Sony Corp. but also Samsung Electronics Co. of South Korea in other areas of consumer electronics such as flat TVs.

New kind of batteries called lithium-ion -- in which Sanyo is among the top makers in the world -- are now mostly used in gadgets like laptops and cell phones. But they are expected to become a vital component for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars.

Production in bigger numbers as a result of the Sanyo-Panasonic tie-up can lead to cost cuts, critical for the proliferation of the fledgling, still costly, battery technology for cars.

Also Thursday, Panasonic shelved plans to sell up to 500 billion yen ($6 billion) of new shares that it had announced as part of its buyout plans "taking into account ... the results of the tender offers." The company said in July that it was considering a share issue of that amount to rebuild its capital following the tender offer.

Panasonic offered 138 yen per share for Sanyo and 1,110 yen per share for Panasonic Electric in the tender offers.

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