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Sony Says Professional Products to Help Consumer Unit

Sony Corp. CEO Kazuo Hirai
Kazuo Hirai, chief executive officer of Sony Corp., has vowed “painful” steps to turn around a company facing a fourth straight annual loss. Photographer: Junko Kimura/Bloomberg

Sony Corp., Japan’s biggest electronics exporter, will use the technology of its business-use products to help revive its consumer-products unit, Kazuo Hirai said in his first public address as company president.

Accelerating cooperation between the professional-products business and the consumer division is key to reviving Sony’s electronics operations, Hirai, who replaced Howard Stringer as president and chief executive officer April 1, told reporters today in Tokyo.

Hirai, 51, has vowed “painful” steps to turn around a company facing a fourth straight annual loss as consumers flock to devices from Samsung Electronics Co. and Apple Inc. The new CEO, credited with making Sony’s PlayStation game business profitable, put himself in charge of the company’s television operations, aiming to end eight years of losses at the unit.

“Sony’s high-quality, advanced products for business use can help our consumer unit lead the market,” Hirai said today. “We will speed up development of products and promote cooperation.”

The effort will be led by Shoji Nemoto, who has been named to oversee Tokyo-based Sony’s technology strategy and digital imaging and solution units, Hirai said. Sony’s professional-use products include cameras employed by broadcasters and projectors used by movie theaters.

New Strategy

The maker of Bravia TVs and Vaio computers plans to unveil details of its new corporate strategy on April 12, Sony said in a statement today.

Appointing Nemoto was a good move by Hirai, said Yuji Fujimori, a Tokyo-based analyst at Barclays Capital.

“Sony used to be good at creating synergy between business-use products and consumer products, such as digital video cameras,” Fujimori said by phone today. “But these days, they’re not. So I think it’s positive that Hirai is talking about it.”

The company’s shares rose 0.9 percent to 1,672 yen at 2:12 p.m. in Tokyo, extending their gain this year to 21 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.4 percent.

Cupertino, California-based Apple has gained 54 percent this year in New York trading, while Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung has risen 25 percent in Seoul.

Nemoto Appointment

Sony announced Nemoto’s appointment on March 27, when it also named Kunimasa Suzuki as head of product strategy, mobile phones and personal computers. Tomoyuki Suzuki was named to oversee Sony’s chip and device solution businesses.

“There are technologies that our professional unit has that can benefit products for the mass market,” Nemoto told reporters in Tokyo today. “We’ll do it very quickly. We can jointly develop chips, systems and modules to build a seamless relationship.”

Nemoto has set up three groups under his technology committee, he said today. A corporate research and development group made up of select engineers will focus on developing a “game-changing” technology that can drive Sony’s growth in five to 10 years, he said.

Another group is tasked with improving Sony’s research and development for existing products and products to be introduced within five years. The third group will focus on technologies for components and materials, Nemoto said.

Hirai, who worked in Sony’s music and entertainment divisions, edged out three other candidates with engineering backgrounds for the top job at the company that was a trendsetter in the 1980s. Stringer, 70, will become chairman of the board after a shareholders meeting in June.

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