x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sharp plans to increase workforce in Middle East

Japanese tech giant Sharp rules out immediate staff cuts in the Middle East and Africa despite plans to slash more than 10,000 jobs worldwide.

Sharp says it is growing its staff base in the Middle East and Africa, despite plans to slash more than 10,000 jobs globally as it grapples with debt and record losses.

The troubled Japanese technology firm ruled out any immediate job cuts in this region and said it was growing operations in the Middle East and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in eastern Europe.

"We have no jobs cuts in this region at all," said Hiroshi Sasaoka, the chairman of Sharp Middle East. "Rather, we are expanding the sales base in other countries. We just set up our representative office in Jeddah. And we are going to expand our operations to the CIS region."

Sharp reportedly plans to slash about 18 per cent of its global workforce, cut wages and offload plants in Mexico, China and Malaysia in a bid to return to profitability.

The firm had ¥706 billion (Dh33.35 billion) of short-term debt maturing within 12 months and ¥314bn in long-term debts at the end of June, according to financial statements quoted by Bloomberg News.

Both Standard and Poor's and Moody's Investors Service have cut Sharp's debt ratings to junk, further limiting the firm's access to credit as it looks to restructure its finances.

The company has submitted a plan to banks as it seeks refinancing on loans after a delay in a bid to sell shares to Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry, which trades as Foxconn.

Mr Sasaoka said Sharp could survive without a deal with Hon Hai.

"Already banks have agreed to support us," he said. "Sharp's sales record is turning to a positive one since August. I think the business environment for Sharp is going to be better this year and next year."

Mr Sasaoka said the company was gradually increasing its staff numbers in the Middle East and Africa amid rising revenues from this region.

He said he was looking to boost staff numbers to about 125 by next year, from 110 this year and 85 last year.

"Maybe we have [an] increase next year because of our new set-up of the representative office in Saudi Arabia, the CIS regions and I am thinking to set up the same in the east African countries," said Mr Sasaoka.

Revenues from the Middle East and Africa region are forecast at US$400m (Dh1.46 billion) for the current fiscal year, Mr Sasaoka said. "This is growing maybe 40 to 45 per cent from last year."

Sharp is to start selling its 80-inch Aquos television in the Middle East from next month, with a retail price of Dh35,999.

"We expect [to sell] something like 3,000 to 4,000 pieces up to March next year in the Middle East and African countries," said Mr Sasaoka.

He added the market for big-screen television was "fast-growing".

Sharp plans to launch more large-screen televisions in the Middle East.

"We sell a 90-inch [TV] in the US and that we are going to launch here maybe early next year," said Mr Sasaoka.

bflanagan@thenational.ae