Losses For Japan Electronics

Japan's two biggest electronics companies, Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp., reported multimillion-dollar losses for the first half of fiscal 1998-their first deficits for the period in nearly 50 years.

They cited Japan's recession, slumping semiconductor and consumer electronics sales, and a drop in semiconductor prices for Tuesday's financial reports. Toshiba said the Asian financial crisis had cut into demand for memory chips.

It was Hitachi's first six-month loss since 1950, while Toshiba hasn't had a first-half loss since 1949. Hitachi, Japan's largest electronics maker, recorded a pretax loss of 69.2 billion yen, or about $580 million, for the six months ended Sept.30 compared to a pretax profit of 33.3 billion yen a year earlier.

The company lost 124.7 billion yen, or $1.04 billion, after taxes compared with a profit of 24.3 billion yen the previous year.

Hitachi's sales fell 12 percent to 1.80 trillion yen, or $15.1 billion, from 2.05 trillion yen the previous year.

Toshiba, Japan's No. 2 electronics company, posted a pretax loss of 6.4 billion yen, or $53.6 million, for the latest six months, against a pretax profit of 25.4 billion yen in the same period last year. Toshiba lost 6.4 billion yen, or $53.6 million, after taxes after posting a 22.45 billion yen profit in the first half in the previous year.

Toshiba's sales were down 12.3 percent to 1.60 trillion yen, or $13.4 billion, from 1.82 trillion yen the previous year.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Japan's largest comprehensive heavy machinery-maker, announced a sharp fall in profits for the first half.

Mitsubishi's pretax profits fell to 50.6 billion yen, or $424 million, in the first half from 74.31 billion yen a year earlier. Its net income dropped to 29.29 billion yen, or $245 million, from 43.3 billion yen a year ago.

The company said orders fell as Japan's recession caused the private sector to invest less in new factories and equipment.