Sony to hive off more businesses in bid to get out of the red

Mr Kazuo Hirai, president and chief executive officer of Sony, announces its mid-term strategy for fiscal year of 2015-2017 at its the Corporate Strategy Meeting held at headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, on Feb 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Mr Kazuo Hirai, president and chief executive officer of Sony, announces its mid-term strategy for fiscal year of 2015-2017 at its the Corporate Strategy Meeting held at headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, on Feb 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

TOKYO (AFP) - Sony's boss said on Wednesday he would keep splitting the vast business into self-operating units in a bid to drag it out of the red, while forecasting an ambitious US$4.2 billion (S$5.7 billion) operating profit in three years.

Mr Kazuo Hirai, who is leading a sweeping restructuring at the struggling Japanese consumer electronics firm, made the remarks after Sony previously announced it was selling its laptop business outright and hiving off its troubled television business into a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Next on the list was the company's audio/video division, which includes Blu-ray Disc players and portable audio devices, while already spun off units would get more autonomy, he said during a strategy briefing.

"The head of each division will be encouraged to take the initiative for future options, such as business tie-ups with other companies, changes in the business portfolio, buyouts and selloffs," Mr Hirai told reporters.

"Image sensors, games, music and movies are the engines of growth," Mr Hirai added.

Sony has turned its focus to more profitable areas including image sensors for smartphone cameras, after reporting massive losses and taking big writedowns tied to its restructuring, which has included layoffs and selling its Manhattan headquarters.

Earlier this month, the once high-flying giant, known for Walkman and PlayStation brands, said it would cut 1,100 jobs in its mobile phone business - on top of a previously announced 1,000 redundancies.

It also said it now expects to lose 170 billion yen (S$1.94 billion) in the current fiscal year to March, with an operating profit of 20 billion yen.

For the year to March 2018, Sony on Wednesday said it expects an operating profit of more than 500 billion yen.

Sony has struggled in the consumer electronics business that built its global brand, including losing billions of dollars in televisions over the past decade as fierce competition from lower-cost rivals pummelled the TV subsidiary's finances.