Sony Corp is in talks to sell its battery business to Japan’s state-backed investment fund, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations said.
Innovation Network Corp of Japan (INCJ) has not made an offer for the acquisition, said the person, who declined to be identified because the information is not public.
Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), the world’s largest contract maker of electronics, has also shown interest in the buyout, the Nikkei newspaper reported earlier yesterday.
Sony’s CEO Kazuo Hirai has said he would consider alliances for the battery unit as he seeks to refocus the manufacturer on mobile devices, including smartphones, after losses totaling US$10 billion in the past four years.
Sales of the company’s Bravia TVs, PlayStation game consoles, Handycam video recorders and Cybershot cameras may decline this year against competition from overseas rivals, including South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co.
Lithium batteries, used in smartphones, personal computers, tablets and plug-in electric vehicles, account for the largest portion of the global market for rechargeable cells. The company’s market share in lithium batteries fell to 6.9 percent in the April-to-June period this year, from 15.4 percent in the first quarter of 2008, according to Tokyo-based Techno Systems Research Co.
Sony’s battery business had sales of about ￥142.5 billion (US$1.69 billion) in the year ended March, the Nikkei newspaper said yesterday in a report on the sale proposal. Hon Hai Precision Industry of Taiwan has shown interest in the unit, which had about 2,700 employees as of September, according to the report.
Hiroshi Okubo, a spokesman for Sony in Tokyo, declined to comment as the company has made no formal announcement. INCJ could not be reached by telephone outside regular business hours.
Hon Hai spokesman Simon Hsing said yesterday by telephone the company is “looking for opportunities among Japanese businesses,” declining to comment on the report of talks.
Shares of Tokyo-based Sony have fallen 34 percent this year, the sixth-worst performance on Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average, which has gained 18 percent.
The company maintained its forecast for a ￥20 billion profit this fiscal year as it unexpectedly posted a seventh straight quarterly loss last month.