Panasonic in talks to buy Austrian automotive light maker ZKW Group

Panasonic Corp is in talks to buy Austrian automotive light maker ZKW Group GmbH in a deal that could be worth up to $1 billion, Japanese Nikkei business daily today reported.

Commenting on the report, Panasonic said in a statement that the reported deal was not something it had announced, and added that it does not comment on individual deals.

The move is designed to increase the Japanese manufacturer's presence in automotive electronics, an industry undergoing rapid change amid progress in self-driving and electric vehicles, the report said.

The move also comes a year after Panasonic acquired a 49-per cent stake in Spain's auto parts maker Ficosa International for $275 million.

A deal would come after  the Japanese electronics group seeks to expand its automotive business as the company accelerates its shift away from consumer electronics business after posting its first annual profit in 2014 of $1.17 billion following three consecutive years of losses totalling $15 billion.

Founded in Vienna in 1938 by Karl Zizala, ZKW develops and manufactures premium lighting systems at plants in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, China, India and Mexico.

It supplies light-emitting diode headlights and lighting modules to automakers such as General Motors Co, BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Volvo and forecasts sales of about €900 million in 2016.

An acquisition of ZKW would expand Panasonic's automotive lineup, which currently centres on batteries and navigation systems.