Matsushita to Build New Lithium-ion Factory

Company will invest $925 million in plant in Japan

Matsushita Electric said July 30 it will build a $925 million new lithium-ion battery factory, hoping to take the lead in a technology that is enjoying brisk demand. The company, best known for the Panasonic brand, said it would build the factory in its hub in the western Japanese metropolis of Osaka and make it the main manufacturing base for lithium-ion batteries.

"Demand for environmentally friendly, rechargeable batteries shows notable increases not only in major markets like Europe, the U.S. and Japan, but also in emerging markets," the company said.

Lithium-ion batteries, which are rechargeable, are widely used in laptop computers, mobile telephones and other electronics, and are increasingly the focus of research in the automotive and aerospace industries.

Matsushita Battery Industrial (MBI), a unit of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., said it will invest 100 billion yen (US$925 million) to build the factory, which would start production in October next year. The company said it would invest another 23 billion yen to boost production at its two other lithium-ion factories in Japan. Matsushita also has a battery plant in China. It said the investment was aimed at "making MBI one of the world's top manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries."

Matsushita, now the third largest lithium-ion battery maker, aims to make 50 million units a year at the new factory, nearly tripling the group's current domestic output.

The investment comes as leading lithium-ion battery maker Sanyo Electric Co. also ramps up investment in the sector, seeing it as key to future growth after a troubled spell at the Osaka-based company. Sanyo said earlier this month that it would build a new plant in western Japan to boost the company's production capacity of lithium-ion batteries by 30%.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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