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2014年2月13日 (木)

ソニー不振 背水のリストラで再生なるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 12, 2014
Can Sony’s restructuring efforts save the ailing electronics giant?
ソニー不振 背水のリストラで再生なるか(2月12日付・読売社説)

What kind of road map will Sony Corp. draft to bring its technical prowess and brand strength to bear in the pursuit of a new growth strategy, following the company’s latest restructuring plan? It is still unclear what lies ahead in the conglomerate’s efforts to revive business after its recent last-ditch shake-up.

Sony has unveiled a bold restructuring package that will see the company shedding its embattled personal computer business, which had sold its wares under the “Vaio” brand. The scheme also includes a plan to spin off Sony’s television manufacturing division into a separate company.

The struggling corporation’s decision to adopt these measures reflects Sony’s failure to improve business performance despite repeated restructuring efforts in the past. In fact, Sony had to revise its forecast for after-tax profits during the consolidated account settlement term ending in March 2014. The figure has been revised downward to a loss of ¥110 billion, meaning Sony is likely to fall into the red for the first time in two business terms.

There was a time when Sony demonstrated an ability to release a number of successful products like the Walkman portable music player and the Trinitron color TV set. But the company’s prowess in this respect has faded, resulting in a failure to turn out distinctive products that could set Sony apart from other electronics manufacturers.

Sony’s desperate move to shake up two iconic businesses—PC and television manufacturing—is a telling sign of the company’s hardships.

Vaio entered the PC market in 1996. The brand’s lineup was marked by unconventional design combined with an operating environment that enabled users to enjoy recorded music and video clips. The Vaio PC grew to great popularity, and served as a trigger prompting Sony to expand its business as a consumer electronics manufacturer to include full-fledged operations in the field of information technology.

In recent years, however, sales figures for Sony’s Vaio line have declined as a result of an ongoing contraction in the PC market, ascribed to the rise of smartphones and tablet PCs.

Will pain bring gain?

Sony President Kazuo Hirai described his company’s restructuring plan as “a painful decision to make.” When he said that the corporation would seek to concentrate its business resources in the production of smartphones, tablet PCs and other new electronic devices, he had good reason. However, there is no cause for optimism about Sony’s plan yet, given the growing offensive on the smartphone market launched by corporations in China and other countries.

Sony is expected to suffer a 10th consecutive year of losses in its television manufacturing operations—which could be considered the company’s inaugural business—during the business term ending in March, largely as a result of sales competition with South Korean and other makers.

Sony’s decision to transform its television manufacturing division into a separate corporation is aimed at improving business efficiency and making swift managerial decisions.

It is essential for Sony’s shake-up to fulfill its goal by putting an end to the company’s chronic losses. This will demand success in multiple domains, including the marketing of next-generation 4K televisions, which offer ultrahigh-definition images. But competition is heating up among electronics makers seeking to develop 4K televisions. To accomplish this goal, Sony will also need to introduce strategic products targeting consumers in emerging nations.

The foundations of Sony’s business have been supported by profits from its thriving financial services, movie and music businesses in recent years. This has made it possible for Sony to make up for the losses incurred by its television manufacturing and other money-losing divisions.

The greatest challenge facing the struggling corporation is to make the right decisions in choosing which kinds of businesses it should pursue as the mainstay of its overall operations, a task essential for achieving growth as a conglomerate.

There has been fierce competition in business sectors where Sony is a player, including the manufacture of medical equipment and production of video game consoles. Within these market conditions, Sony will be tested as to whether it can achieve success in the implementation of its restructuring plan, which observers say adopts a “selection and concentration” tactic.

Sony’s current plight contrasts with favorable conditions at electronics industry rivals such as Hitachi, Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. Hitachi, for instance, has a competitive edge in the construction and improvement of infrastructure such as railway facilities. Panasonic Corp. and Sharp Corp., both of which are trying to rehabilitate themselves, have succeeded in improving their business performance. These moves have left Sony the sole underdog in the electronics industry as it trails far behind in reconsidering business operations.

We hope Sony will use its bold reform plan as leverage to reinvigorate itself as soon as possible, transforming into a corporation built on distinctiveness from competitors as it once was.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 12, 2014)
(2014年2月12日01時11分  読売新聞)


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