QINGDAO: Haier, the world's top-selling refrigerator and washing machine manufacturer, is to target bargain-hunting Japanese consumers in order to maintain future sales growth.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Philip Carmichael, Haier's president of Asia-Pacific operations, also suggested the firm might make acquisitions in 2010.

Last year, Haier purchased 20% of Fisher & Paykel, a New Zealand-based refrigerator maker, with overall revenues growing by 10%.

The Chinese firm, which sells goods in 60 nations, is also developing a new product line designed to appeal to buyers in Japan, where recession-hit consumers are currently prioritising value over branding when purchasing white goods.

In 2009, Haier was the seventh-largest refrigerator firm in Japan with a market share of 4% by volume, ahead of the previous year's 3% but far behind the 23% share enjoyed by market leader Panasonic.

Overall Japanese refrigerator sales by volume declined 4% last year.

Carmichael commented: "We're going into quarter one now with strong momentum, new products and increased awareness. I expect that momentum to continue into 2010."

Jing Ulrich, chairwoman of China equities and commodities at JPMorgan, also suggested firms such as Haier would benefit from strong domestic demand for Chinese refrigerators, due to the ongoing 4 trillion yuan ($586bn, €404bn) government stimulus scheme launched by Beijing in response to the global economic downturn.

The scheme, which also covers washing machines and computers, gives refridgerator buyers direct subsidies to offset purchase costs for the products.

"We saw about 14 billion yuan ($2.05bn, €1.41bn) worth of sales in the home-appliance industry because of the program," Ulrich said.

"I think momentum will continue in the New Year because households are getting more affluent."

Data sourced from Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff