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2014年9月30日 (火)

ソニー経営不振 大胆な発想で活路を開きたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bold inventiveness needed for Sony to recover from deep business slump
ソニー経営不振 大胆な発想で活路を開きたい

Once a behemoth maker of inventive products that swept the global market, Sony Corp. has found itself in a serious business slump.

If it rests on the laurels of its glorious past, Sony will not win the cutthroat competition in the global market. It is hoped that the electronics giant will successfully reconstruct itself with the firm determination of starting all over again from square one.

Sony has revised down its earnings projection for the business year ending in March 2015 from a loss of ¥50 billion to ¥230 billion in the red. It also announced it would not pay an annual dividend for the first time since its 1958 listing.

The red in this business year’s settlement of accounts would represent the sixth time that the company has reported losses over the past seven years.

Sony President Kazuo Hirai, who took the helm of the company in 2012, made smartphone production a core business to turn its business around.

But the smartphone business failed to reach the company’s earnings target, forcing it to forecast massive losses for this business year. Its high-end smartphones were considerably outsold by Apple’s iPhone models, while its lower-priced products fared poorly in a market dominated by makers from China and other emerging economies.

Hirai stressed the company would focus on high-end smartphones to improve its profitability, but the same strategy he applied to its flat-screen television business is still making losses. There is serious concern that the company will end up making losses in the smartphone business as well.

Shift in focus crucial

Many of the electronics makers that helped generate Japan’s high-flying economic growth fought losing battles with companies from emerging economies, but they shifted from consumer-centered business — which turns out thin profit margins — to corporate-centered business to ensure their survival.

Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. have produced stable earnings by concentrating their business resources on nuclear power generation and railroad and other infrastructure businesses. Panasonic Corp. downsized its flat-screen TV and smartphone businesses and shifted to the housing and automobile sectors, achieving an impressive business recovery.

Unlike these general electronics manufacturers, Sony, launched as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, has based its growth on the production of radios, TV sets and game consoles. Simply severing its consumer-oriented businesses will not allow it to attain the business resuscitation it badly needs.

Sony’s audiovisual and sound technologies are highly evaluated. A new model of the Walkman portable music players to be released in November is the world’s smallest and lightest player that meets a sound quality standard higher than that of CDs.

Through such quality improvements and model refinements, Sony should win the hearts of more consumers. What consumers are waiting for is the revival of Sony’s capacity to translate adventurous ideas into hit products.

Sony once won immense support for Walkman players by proposing a lifestyle of “carrying music with you.”

The company should use its free and open-minded corporate culture — which has helped create the Sony legend — to discover a totally new consumer demand, an effort that would likely allow the company to find a way out of its current hardship.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 29, 2014)Speech


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