CHIBA (Reuters) - Japanese electronics components firm Murata Manufacturing Co Ltd aims to turn around its money-losing battery business within two to three years as its safety technology draws strong interest from smartphone vendors, its chief executive said.
"We are seeing brisk demand for our smartphone batteries due to their safety performance, particularly since a series of incidents last year involving overheating batteries," Tsuneo Murata said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday.
The firm's battery business, most of which it acquired from Sony Corp for 17.5 billion yen ($154.8 million) last month, uses gel electrolytes for smartphone batteries, which are less prone to fire than commonly used liquid-type batteries.
Murata plans to boost battery revenue to 200 billion yen in the year through March 2021, up around 30 percent from current levels, with capital investment of 50 billion yen over the next two to three years.
Half of battery revenue currently comes from smartphone batteries, and the proportion will not change in the coming years, the CEO said.
He said sales expansion will come through focusing on battery efficiency, with the aim of raising the sales volume of each product rather than broadening Murata's product line-up.
He also sees no need to rush into the automotive battery business, which he said is already highly competitive. "It won't be too late to make decisions after a clear trend emerges in the green-car market," Murata said.
The CEO also maintained the firm's 2019 goal of commercializing all-solid-state batteries, a new type of battery that significantly increases safety.
The battery will be initially mounted on wearable devices, where safety is the top priority, Murata said, adding that more work needs to be done to increase energy density before launch.
Toyota Motor Corp is working on an electric car powered by an all-solid-state battery that significantly increases driving range and reduces charging time. Murata said his firm's battery is different to that of Toyota.
(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki and Yoshiyasu Shida; Editing by Christopher Cushing)