Smartphone business indispensable to brand portfolio: Sony CEO

A visitor tests a Sony Xperia 10 smartphone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on February 27, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2019
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Smartphone business indispensable to brand portfolio: Sony CEO

  • Sony’s smartphone business reported an operating loss of ¥97.1 billion ($879.45 million) in the year ended March
  • Sony is beefing up gaming functions of its smartphones to tap customers of its successful PlayStation gaming business

TOKYO: Sony sees the smartphone business as indispensable to its brand portfolio, its CEO said, bucking calls from some investors that the Japanese electronics firm should scrap the money-losing business.
The smartphone business reported an operating loss of ¥97.1 billion ($879.45 million) in the year ended March, lagging rivals such as Apple and Samsung Electronics and weighing on the group’s record-breaking profit.
Sony’s consumer electronics hardware business “has centered on entertainment since our foundation, not daily necessities like refrigerators and washing machines,” Kenichiro Yoshida told a group of journalists on Wednesday.
“We see smartphones as hardware for entertainment and a component necessary to make our hardware brand sustainable,” he said. “And younger generations no longer watch TV. Their first touch point is smartphone.”
The business, originally a joint venture with Sweden’s Ericsson that Sony took full control of in 2012, has a global market share of less than 1 percent, shipping just 6.5 million handsets annually, mainly to Japan and Europe, according to Sony’s financial statement.
As Sony aims to make the business profitable next financial year, it ceased production at its Beijing plant and streamlined some sales operations globally.
Sony is beefing up gaming functions of its smartphones to tap customers of its successful PlayStation gaming business.
Yoshida also said he is confident in improving profitability at the pictures business.
Separately, Reuters reported Daniel Loeb’s hedge fund Third Point is again building a stake in the company, as part of its second campaign for change at Sony in six years.
Third Point wants Sony to explore options for some of its business units, including its movie studio, which the fund believes has attracted takeover interest, people familiar with the matter previously said.
“It was good that in the past Third Point came in and we had various discussions on the pictures business,” Yoshida said. Sony has sharply improved disclosures of the pictures business since then, he said.
The management team of the pictures unit has been “reshuffled almost entirely over the last three or four years,” Yoshida said.


Lebanon’s Hariri calls for cabinet solidarity in budget debate

Updated 18 June 2019
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Lebanon’s Hariri calls for cabinet solidarity in budget debate

  • The PM said cabinet ministers need to be united and responsible
  • Lebanon’s debt is almost 150% of its GDP

BEIRUT, June 18 : Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri on Tuesday called for parliament to quickly approve the country’s 2019 budget and urged his coalition government to avoid internal disputes.
The cabinet this month agreed a budget plan that shrinks the projected fiscal deficit by 4 percentage points from last year to 7.6% by cutting spending and raising taxes and other fees.
“What I want during the debate is for us to be responsible and united, and not contradictory,” Hariri said in a statement, addressing cabinet ministers as to their comportment during the parliament debate.
Parliament’s finance committee is debating the draft budget and has suggested amendments, local newspapers reported. It will then put the budget to the full assembly to ratify it.
Parliament is mostly composed of parties that are also present in the coalition government and which supported the budget there.
Since the budget was agreed there have been fierce arguments between parties in the coalition over several subjects, though these have not targeted the budget.
Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest debt burdens, equivalent to about 150% of GDP, and the International Monetary Fund has urged it to cut spending.
“We have held 19 cabinet meetings to agree on this draft budget and these sessions were not for fun, but for deep, detailed debate over every clause and every idea,” Hariri said.
“For this reason, I consider it the responsibility of each of us in government to have ministerial solidarity...to defend in parliament the decision that we have taken together,” he added.
After the 2019 budget is agreed, the cabinet must quickly start working on the 2020 budget and on approving the first phase of a program of investments toward which foreign donors have offered $11 billion in project financing. (Reporting by Angus McDowall, editing by Ed Osmond)