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PREVIEW-Philips Q1 profit seen hit by TV woes
* Philips reports Q1 results on April 18, 0500 GMT
* Q1 net profit seen down 19.5 pct from yr ago on TV
* TV unit must be restructured or sold -analysts
* Japan impact assessment expected
By Roberta B. Cowan
AMSTERDAM, April 18 (Reuters) - When Dutch consumer electronics giant Philips Electronics (PHG.AS) reports first-quarter earnings later on Monday, the market will want to know how it expects to fix the problems at its troubled TV unit.
Philips' new chief executive, Frans van Houten, who took over at the start of this month, will have to act swiftly to restore investor confidence in the Dutch shavers-to-medical scanners manufacturer.
Only last month, Philips said losses at its struggling TV business are mounting, after sales of TVs during last year's World Cup turned out weaker than expected. [ID:nLDE72U0WR]
Philips warned that the unit would make a first-quarter operating loss of as much as 120 million euros ($173.5 million), up from a loss of 67 million euros in the fourth quarter.
Aside from consumer electronics, Philips' main businesses are healthcare and lighting, two areas where it competes with General Electric (GE.N) and Siemens (SIEGn.DE).
Given the slow economic growth in the U.S. and Europe, weak consumer spending, ailing construction market, cuts in government healthcare budgets, and the devastating earthquake in Japan, investors will want to know about the outlook for all three of Philips' businesses.
Philips -- the world's biggest lighting maker, a top three hospital equipment maker, and Europe's biggest consumer electronics producer -- is expected to report first-quarter net profit of 161 million euros, down 19.5 percent from a year ago, according to a Reuters poll. [ID:nLDE73C1TG]
Sales are forecast at 5.769 billion euros of sales, up very slightly from 5.677 billion euros a year ago. First-quarter earnings before interest and taxes, or EBIT, are forecast to fall nearly 30 percent, largely because of the TV business.
Van Houten, a restructuring expert, is expected to move fast to address problems at the TV unit, which ING analyst Sjoerd Ummels estimated has lost Philips about 950 million euros since 2007, because it cannot compete with low-cost manufacturers and has suffered from a build-up in inventory. [ID:nLDE72U1U2]
Philips currently has brand licensing agreements for its TVs with TPV (TPVH.SI) in China as well as Funai (6839.T) in the United States and Videocom in India.
Analysts consider extending the current partnership with TPV, in Europe for example, as one option: another would be the outright sale of the troubled business. [ID:nLDE72U0WR]
Philips' former chief executive, Gerard Kleisterlee, preferred the licensing model.
With Van Houten in charge, investors will want to know how he intends to resolve the problem, which he himself has called a "distraction" for the group, and will want to know whether the audio-visual and multimedia equipment business, which was a drag on fourth-quarter sales, will also struggle to compete on price. (Reporting by Roberta B. Cowan; Editing by Sara Webb and Mike Nesbit) ($1=.6918 euros)
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