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Fitch Cuts Sony Corp, Panasonic Corporation Debt Ratings To 'Junk' Status-Reuters

Thursday, 22 Nov 2012 05:19am EST 

Reuters reported that ratings agency Fitch downgraded the debt ratings of Sony Corp and Panasonic Corporation to 'junk' status citing weakness in their consumer electronics and TV operations, further diminishing the luster of the once-great Japanese brands. The cut to below investment grade, the first by a ratings firm, comes as the floundering Japanese tech companies face weak demand and fierce competition from Apple and Samsung Electronics. A strong yen and bumps in China, where growth has slowed and Japanese goods have been targeted in sometimes violent protests recently, have also weighed on their earnings. The two companies, along with Sharp Corp, racked up combined losses of $20 billion last year, leading them to axe jobs, sell assets and close facilities. Fitch downgraded Sony by three notches to BB-minus from BBB- minus, saying meaningful recovery will be slow. The move came after Sony, the maker of PlayStation game consoles and Vaio laptops, last week announced plans to raise 150 billion yen ($1.82 billion) through the sale of convertible bonds. In a separate statement, Fitch cut Panasonic to BB from BBB-minus, a two-notch downgrade, citing weakened competitiveness in its TVs and display panels as well as weak cash generation from its operations.