Japan's Toshiba to build green plants despite slowdown

TOKYO, Dec 24, 2008 (AFP) - Toshiba Corp. said Wednesday it will build new factories in Japan and Vietnam for green motors and batteries, eyeing future demand despite a recession that has led competitors to shelve investment plans.

The Japanese electronics and engineering giant said it would build a plant in Vietnam for high-efficiency motors that meet rising global emissions standards, along with a factory in Japan making rechargeable batteries.

Toshiba said it will invest 77 million dollars to start the new manufacturing hub for low carbon-output motors in Dong Nai province, on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City.

The plant will eventually employ 500 people and produce 1.2 million high-efficiency industrial motors annually by the 2015 financial year, Toshiba said.

Growing legislative moves around the world to curb climate change "will spur demand and the ratio of high-efficiency motors is expected to increase substantially," a Toshiba statement said.

Separately, Toshiba said it would spend "several tens of billions of yen" for a battery plant in Japan, which is scheduled to come online in fall 2010. Ten billion yen is about 110 million dollars.

"Although the immediate economic conditions are tough, we expect the global demand for lithium-ion batteries for industrial and automotive applications will rise sharply, particularly after 2010," said a Toshiba spokeswoman.

A number of Japanese companies including Toshiba's rival Sony Corp. have been shutting down plants and production to deal with the global economic downturn.

Toshiba announced a loss in the second quarter due to falling chip prices and a stronger yen. It has already decided to lower production of chips and is reportedly considering laying off workers.

Details about the planned battery factory and the investment are still being finalised but the field seems promising, the spokeswoman said.

"We estimate the global lithium-ion battery market will reach 1.7 trillion yen (19 billion dollars) in 2015. We want to be in a position to take 10 percent of that," she said.

The planned factory is for the long-life, rapid-charge "Super Charge ion Battery" or SCiB, a rechargeable battery that can last more than a decade.

Japanese and US automakers are racing to build electric cars powered entirely by batteries after the success of hybrids that switch between a battery and fuel.

Source: AFP

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