Sony Denies Succession Report Naming Hirai

Sony Corp. (6758) denied a report it will name Kaz Hirai as president in April in place of Howard Stringer.

Hirai, the company’s executive deputy president, will be promoted to president by April, the Nikkei newspaper reported today. Stringer will remain in the posts of chairman and chief executive officer, it said. No decision has been made by Sony’s board, Shiro Kambe, a company spokesman in Tokyo, said in an e- mail, declining to comment further.

Stringer, 69, told Bloomberg Businessweek in November that he doesn’t plan to step down soon. His latest three-year turnaround plan ends in March 2013, at which point Hirai probably will take over, according to several people interviewed for that story.

Hirai, 51, is propelling Sony to streamline its main television business, which led the company to predict a fourth year of annual losses (6758). Sony had net losses of 399 billion yen ($5.2 billion) in the past three years and forecasts a 90 billion yen loss for the current fiscal year amid competition with Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Inc.

Fitch Ratings last month downgraded Sony’s long-term ratings to “BBB-,” one level above junk, from “BBB,” citing difficulties in reviving the money-losing TV business and deals that won’t improve profit.

Financial Services

Financial services were the biggest contributor to Sony’s operating income in the past two years, ahead of music production and motion pictures, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s cushioning losses from selling Bravia televisions as the Tokyo-based company heads for a fourth consecutive annual loss, exacerbated by an earthquake in March, a hacker attack in April, floods in Thailand that shut plants and the yen’s appreciation.

Sales of Sony’s latest handheld game machine, PlayStation Vita, declined to 72,479 units during the week ended Dec. 25, down from 324,859 sold during the two days after the product’s Dec. 17 debut, Tokyo-based researcher Media Create Co. said on its website.

Sony slipped (6758) 2 percent to 1,345 yen in Tokyo trading yesterday. The stock fell 53 percent last year, compared with gains of 11 percent for Samsung and 26 percent by Apple.

Samsung, Asia’s largest consumer-electronics company, had a record quarterly profit on surging sales of Galaxy phones and a one-time gain from selling its hard-disk drive business, the company reported yesterday.

As part of a reorganization, Sony said last month that it dissolved a venture with Samsung to make liquid-crystal displays. A subsequent agreement will enable Sony to secure a flexible and steady supply of LCD panels from Samsung, based on market prices, and without the responsibility and costs of operating a manufacturing facility, Sony said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Naoko Fujimura in Tokyo at nfujimura@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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