Photographer: The Asahi Shimbun

Sony's Plant for Smartphone Cameras Halts After Japan Earthquake

The earthquake in southern Japan that killed nine people, damaged buildings and derailed a bullet train also halted production at a Sony Corp. camera-chip factory, a key part of the global smartphone supply chain.

The plant in Kumamoto on the southern island of Kyushu is still being inspected, Sony said. The strength of the earthquake, as well as persistent aftershocks, are raising the risk that it will take time to restore operations, Kenichi Saita, an analyst at Mizuho Securities, wrote in a report.

Still, he said he doesn’t expect the earthquake to have a major impact on camera-chip supplies, given current demand and Sony’s ability to shift production to other factories in Japan.

“We expect components for upcoming high-end smartphones to come from the Kumamoto factory, so there is concern on the impact on production and shipments,” Saita wrote.

The Kumamoto plant, which started operating in 2001, makes CMOS sensor chips that turn light into digital signals -- a key component in digital cameras and smartphones such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone. Any disruption to the supply of digital-imaging chips could cause production delays and lost sales for manufacturers.

“We are checking into extent of damage and when we can restart,” said Haruka Kitagawa, a spokesman for Sony. “There hasn’t been major damage to the building.”

Sony halted production and evacuated the factory following the quake, which struck Thursday night. There were no reports of damage to Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear reactors, the only operating plants in Japan. A bullet train carrying no passengers derailed near Kumamoto station.

The shares of Tokyo-based Sony fell 3.2 percent to 2,395 at the close in Tokyo on Friday. The Nikkei 225 Average fell less than 1 percent.

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