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Sat, Feb 28, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Sony president stepping down in April

CHANGES: Chairman and CEO Howard Stringer, who will also take over as president, promises to restructure the consumer product group to ensure faster product launch

AP , TOKYO

Embattled Sony Corp said yesterday that Ryoji Chubachi was stepping down as president, adding to the string of Japanese companies hoping to fight the global slowdown with renewed leadership.

Howard Stringer, chairman and chief executive, will stay on, adding the presidency as another title after Chubachi steps down on April 1. Stringer said the change underlined Sony’s commitment to becoming more competitive and rebuilding its image as a technological pioneer.

“This reorganization is designed to transform Sony into a more innovative, integrated and agile global company with its next generation of leadership firmly in place,” Stringer said in a statement.

The Japanese electronics and entertainment company, which has been battered by the global slump and a strong yen, is projecting its first annual net loss in 14 years.

Chubachi, 61, became president in 2005, when Welsh-born American Stringer, 67, became the first foreigner to head Sony.

Chubachi will remain on the board as vice chairman, overseeing quality, safety and environmental policies.

“I look forward to supporting the new management team,” Chubachi said.

Among other changes was the appointment of Kazuo Hirai, the chief of Sony Computer Entertainment, the gaming unit, as head of the Internet-linking products and services group.

Both Chubachi and Stringer had promised a dramatic turnaround at Sony, the maker of Bravia flat-panel televisions, PlayStation 3 game machines and Cybershot digital cameras.

But the global slowdown — hitting during the key year-end shopping season — and the surging yen, which erodes foreign earnings, have proved too much. Sony is particularly vulnerable to overseas demand because exports make up about 80 percent of its sales.

Sony is expecting a ¥150 billion (US$1.5 billion) net loss for the fiscal year through March. That’s a reversal from a net profit of ¥369.4 billion the previous year.

The company has already said it is slashing 8,000 of its 185,000 jobs around the world and closing five or six plants — about 10 percent of its 57 factories. It is also trimming another 8,000 temporary workers who aren’t included in the global work force tally.

Stringer, who has acknowledged he had not gone far enough with cost cuts and efforts to combine entertainment with electronics, promised better times for Sony.

He said the various parts of the company’s sprawling businesses, which include movies and music, as well as gadgets, need to work better with each other.

The TV, digital imaging, home audio and video businesses will come together in a new consumer products group, he said, to boost profitability and growth by being faster with new products, according to Sony.

“The changes we’re announcing today will accelerate the transformation of the company that began four years ago,” Stringer said.

“They will now make it possible for all of Sony’s parts to work together to assume a position of worldwide leadership,” he said.

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