By Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO (Reuters) - Panasonic Corp, the world's top plasma TV maker, is betting on a green future of solar power and hybrid cars as it negotiates a price for rival Sanyo Electric Co that analysts say could be up to $8.7 billion.
A key driver for Panasonic is Sanyo's auto batteries business that powers increasingly popular hybrid and electric vehicles, but it would also secure a foothold in the solar cell industry, another with strong growth potential amid concern about global climate change.
Sanyo is the world's seventh-largest solar cell maker and competes with bigger rivals such as Germany's Q-Cells.
"This isn't a bad combination," said Mizuho Investors Securities analyst Nobuo Kurahashi. "Sony doesn't make auto batteries, at least not yet. When hybrid and electric vehicle demand takes off, Panasonic and Sanyo will be far ahead of everyone else."
Panasonic runs a car battery venture with Toyota Motor Corp, while Sanyo offers nickel metal hydride batteries to Ford Motor Co and Honda Motor Co Ltd and develops lithium-ion batteries for cars with Volkswagen AG.
Panasonic has around $10 billion in cash and cash equivalent, some of which could be used to build a large-scale solar plant, which would be needed to make cost competitive solar panels.story continued