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Panasonic to cut 17,000 jobs, close 70 factories

Panasonic is to close up to 70 factories and cut 17,000 jobs across the world over the next two years in a monumental cost-cutting initiative.

The Japanese firm has already cut 18,000 jobs over the past year, putting the total number over the three-year period ending in March 2013 at 35,000.

The job losses are significant, but represent a fraction of the company's workforce. Currently the consumer electronics giant has 367,000 people in its employment, a figure which is clearly not sustainable with current economic uncertainties and the fallout from the Japanese earthquake.

It won't be just jobs that are going, however, as Fumio Ohtsubo, Panasonic's president, revealed to Reuters that the company is likely to chop between 10 and 20 per cent of its manufacturing bases. It currently has 350 factories, which means as many as 70 of them could be boarded up.

Panasonic cited rivals in South Korea and China, who are churning out cheaper products, as a major reason behind its decision to restructure. It has put aside 110 billion yen ($1.3 billion) for restructuring expenses over the coming year.

Operating profit for Panasonic's fiscal fourth quarter, which ended in March, fell by close to a third to 41 billion yen, making the job cuts appear a necessity. The firm has avoided giving a forecast for the coming year, since, it said, the earthquake has left great uncertainty for technology businesses in Japan.