Fri, Mar 11, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Sony to reorganize key businesses, promote star Hirai

AP and Reuters, TOKYO

Sony Corp said yesterday it would reorganize its main electronics businesses and promote the star of its gaming operations to lead a new consumer products division.

The massive new consumer group will be led by Kazuo Hirai, a rising executive who has overseen a recovery in Sony’s video game business. The move likely sets the stage for him to one day take over for current CEO Howard Stringer.

“It’s a sign that Sony has exited the crisis mode that it’s been in since the Lehman shock. It can now move on from talk of restructuring to growth,” said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management Co Ltd.

The iconic company said it would combine the vast array of products that have made it famous with consumers — including TVs, video games, PCs and mobile phones — into the group. A second main division will be formed with the company’s digital components and business-facing products.

Tokyo-based Sony remains a household brand name, but has lost much of the glow from years past, when products like its Walkman portable music players transformed the electronics industry. It is currently struggling against flashier rivals like Apple Inc and behemoth competitors like South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co.

Profits have grown in the gaming division under Hirai, with its core PlayStation 3 home console expected to sell 15 million units for the year through this month, up from 13 million the previous year.

The company has also generated buzz among gaming aficionados with the recent announcement of a successor to its PlayStation Portable handheld, due to go on sale late this year. Codenamed “NGP,” for next-generation portable, it promises flashier graphics on a large screen.

In its earnings announcement last month, Sony said that quarterly profit dropped from a year earlier, pulled down by the strong yen and falling TV prices. It also cut its annual sales forecast for the current financial period.

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