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Digital Camera Sales Lifts Canon's Profit
AP Business Writer

A woman walks by a window display of Japanese camera manufacturer Canon Co. products at a Tokyo electronics shop.
AP Photo/Koji Sasahara

Canon Inc. Senior Managing Director Tsuneji Uchida, shown in this undated photo, will become vice president in March, 2006.
AP Photo/Kyodo News

Brisk sales of digital cameras and the strong dollar lifted Canon's net profit 34 percent in the fourth quarter and to record annual earnings for a sixth straight year.

The Japanese manufacturer of cameras and copying machines said Monday that group net profit for the last quarter totaled 108.2 billion yen ($922 million), up from 80.8 billion yen the same quarter a year ago.

Sales jumped 14 percent during that quarter to 1.12 trillion yen ($9.5 billion;) from 981.13 billion yen.

For the fiscal year through December, earnings grew 12 percent to 384.1 billion yen ($3.3 billion; euro2.7 billion) profit. Canon Inc. projected earnings in the current year would grow 8 percent to a seventh consecutive record year at 415 billion yen ($3.6 billion).

The healthy earnings were helped by cost-cutting, strong copier and camera sales and efforts to quickly come out with new products.

A stronger dollar and euro also boosted overseas earnings by inflating income when converted back to yen. Both currencies averaged about 2 percent higher against the yen than in 2004.

Canon is planning to broaden its business by entering the TV market later this year using a new kind of flat-panel technology that it's working on with Japanese electronics maker Toshiba Corp.

Today, flat TVs usually use either liquid crystal displays or plasma displays, the two dominant technologies. Canon's planned TVs use SEDs, or surface-conduction electron-emitter displays, with a beam-emitting technology similar to old-style cathode-ray TVs.

Canon also said President Fujio Mitarai will take on the additional post of chairman once the move is approved at a March 30 shareholders' meeting. Mitarai is scheduled to take over leadership of Japan's top business lobby, Nippon Keidanren, in May.

Hinting at a planned change in leadership, Canon said Senior Managing Director Tsuneji Uchida will become vice president in March.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, a major Japanese business daily, reported Monday that Uchida will become Canon president in May to allow Mitarai to concentrate on his Keidanren job, but Canon declined to confirm that report.

Keidanren, now headed by top Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. Chairman Hiroshi Okuda, wields considerable influence in Japanese politics and public opinion.

Mitarai, 70, who has extensive experience working for Canon in the United States, is credited with having built the company into a globally successful company around its booming digital camera business.

Uchida, 64, has worked in Canon's digital camera and camcorder operations and is a key person in the upcoming SED television project.

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