Hitachi says no plan to buy GE's appliances unit

TOKYO (Reuters) - Hitachi Ltd, Japan’s largest electronics conglomerate, said on Monday it has no plan to acquire General Electric Co’s appliances operations.

Hitachi Ltd President Kazuo Furukawa answers a question at a joint news conference in Tokyo in this December 25, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

General Electric said this month it may sell or spin off its century-old appliances unit, saying the business was too focused on the United States. The unit is estimated by analysts to be worth $4 billion to $8 billion.

“It is important for us to press ahead with our own appliance operations,” President Kazuo Furukawa told reporters.

“When it comes to white goods we are enjoying strong earnings right now, especially for air conditioners. Our (air-conditioner) operations in Europe, India and Brazil are doing well,” he said.

Hitachi is one of Japan’s largest makers of appliances, competing with Toshiba Corp, Matsushita Electric Industrial and Mitsubishi Electric.

GE’s unit is thought to potentially have appeal for an Asian manufacturer looking for a brand well known in the United States.

Analysts and investors have cited China’s Haier Group and South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc among possible suitors.

Speaking at a news conference on its business strategy, Furukawa said he aims to turn Hitachi’s hard disk drive operations profitable in the year to March 2009, and to achieve an annual operating profit at its flat TV business in the following year, reiterating Hitachi executives’ earlier comments.

Flat TV and hard disk drive businesses have been two major drags for Hitachi’s overall earnings.

The hard disk drive unit has not posted an annual profit since Hitachi bought International Business Machines Corp’s hard drive operations for $2 billion in 2002, but it reported its second straight quarterly profit in January-March in a sign of nascent earnings recovery.

Hitachi’s flat TV operations have been hit by sharp price falls in a market dominated by larger rivals such as Samsung Electronics and Sony Corp.

“Flat TV demand is set to grow much further globally,” Furukawa said. “To tell you the truth, we are still struggling in this market. But we are determined to improve our operations.”

Prior to Furukawa’s comments, shares in Hitachi closed up 0.6 percent at 734 yen, outperforming the benchmark Nikkei average, which fell 2.3 percent.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Nathan Layne, Editing by Michael Watson/Elizabeth Fullerton