(Updates with source confirmation, adds background)
TOKYO, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Hitachi Ltd 6501.T, Japan's biggest electronics maker, now faces an annual net loss of more than $1.1 billion instead of a previously forecast profit, hurt by a sharp decline in microchip sales, sources said on Friday.
A growing number of major Japanese electronics makers are expected to suffer big losses for the year ending in March, as the global economy visibly contracts.
A source said this week that Sony Corp 6758.T would likely post an annual operating loss of $1.1 billion, its first such loss in 14 years, while media and analysts say rival Toshiba Corp 6502.T is also headed for a big loss. [ID:nT345549]
Hitachi now eyes a net loss of more than 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion) for the year to March -- its third year of losses -- due to a large loss at Renesas Technology Corp, a chipmaking joint venture of Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric Corp 6503.T, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Renesas, the world’s No.7 maker of semiconductors, is expected to book a net loss of about 200 billion yen, as usage rates halved on equipment used to make chips, said a Renesas source who declined to be named because the numbers are not yet public.
Renesas, which makes chips used in cars, TVs, cameras and hard drives, will also shoulder restructuring costs and a write-down of tax-related assets, reversing an earlier projection for a 9.5 billion yen net profit.
A spokesman at Hitachi, which owns 55 percent of Renesas, declined to comment on the report.
Hitachi, the world’s No. 3 maker of hard drives, has already cut its annual net profit forecast to 15 billion yen from an initial estimate of 40 billion yen, when it reported half-year results in October.
That compares with an average forecast of a 2.3 billion yen net loss in a poll of 11 analysts by Reuters Estimates.
Hitachi, which has been restructuring its hard drive business and gaining profit in its nuclear and thermal power plants, is also suffering from halting orders for automotive equipment and sluggish sales in its flat-panel TVs and other electronics, a Hitachi source said.
Shutoku Watanabe, head of Hitachi’s consumer business group, told Reuters this month that the company’s annual LCD TV sales would likely be as much as 10 percent below target as consumers hold off on off big-ticket purchases. [ID:nN08200013]
Hitachi had already cut its LCD TV sales forecast for the year to end-March to 850,000 units from 1.2 million.
Shares of Hitachi were trading down 0.6 percent against the benchmark Nikkei average .N225, which was up 1.5 percent. (Additional reporting by Taiga Uranaka and Ted Kerr; Editing by Chris Gallagher)
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