Sony looks to mobile and medical sectors to turnaround fortunes


Sony CEO, Kazuo Hirai has said that the manufacturer will focus on the mobile electronics and a medical markets going forward, as he looks to reverse the fortunes of the ailing firm.

Hirai, who took over from Howard Stringer this month, has doubled Sony's annual loss forecast to a record $6.4 billion, and is under intense pressure to fix an ailing TV business and turn around a brand that has been trampled by Apple and South Korea's Samsung.

"We have heard a multitude of investor voices calling for change," Hirai told a packed news conference at Sony's Tokyo headquarters, close to the company's first factory established 65 years ago. "Sony will change."

"Sony has always been an entrepreneurial company. That spirit has not changed," he said.

Sony and other leading Japanese TV makers Sharp and Panasonic have been battered by weak demand, fierce competition and a stronger yen that makes exports less competitive.

The three companies expect a combined loss for the year just ended of $21 billion - more than Sony's entire market value, which has slumped by close to a fifth in the past month. Samsung is 10 times more valuable, while Apple, which Sony executives considered buying in the early 1990s, is worth 30 Sony's.

"It doesn't feel like an aggressive makeover," said Tetsuro Ii, president of Commons Asset Management, who oversees some $33 million worth of assets and does not hold Sony stock.

"You can't really see the roadmap for how they're going to revive the electronics business, nor how they're going to create new value."

Sony confirmed earlier media reports that it will cut around 10,000 jobs - 6 per cent of its global workforce - and take a 75 billion yen ($926 million) restructuring charge in the current business year to next March. It also plans to cut fixed costs in the TV business by 60 percent in 2013/14 from last year's levels, and trim 30 percent off the business' operating costs.

"We cannot shy away from difficult decisions," Hirai said.

Eyeing new business opportunities in the fast-growing medical business, Sony said it was targeting annual sales of 50 billion yen in 2014/15, eventually doubling that, and was scouting for acquisitions and other strategic investments.