May 23, 2014 / 9:42 AM / 4 years ago

Panasonic to spend double original capex plan on auto batteries this year- exec

OSAKA, May 23 (Reuters) - Panasonic Corp expects to spend over 28 billion yen ($275 million) on capex into its auto batteries this year, twice its confirmed budget, with some to be invested into lithium-ion batteries for Tesla Motor Inc’s electric vehicles.

Yoshio Ito, senior managing executive officer and president of the Japanese firm’s automotive and industrial division, told media that another part of the increased amount would be spent on large batteries supplied to other electric vehicle makers.

However, the increased amount from an initial 14 billion yen would not account for investment into Tesla’s planned lithium-ion battery ‘gigafactory’ project, in which Panasonic expects to be the sole producer of cells, Ito said, speaking at a roundtable at the division’s headquarters in Osaka.

Tesla is planning to build a factory in the United States producing lithium-ion batteries from 2017 that it estimates will cost $4 billion to $5 billion. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has said that he expected Panasonic, the company’s prime supplier of lithium-ion cells, to be a partner in the project.

Ito said that Panasonic had not yet decided how much and when to invest in the project but that any expenditure from Panasonic towards the project this year would be small.

A source with knowledge of the matter said another portion of the increased capex budget would go towards building a new zinc battery production facility in India. ($1 = 101.6650 Japanese Yen) (Reporting by Reiji Murai; Writing by Sophie Knight; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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