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Sony CEO says TV division is not for sale … yet

For decades, Sony was the undisputed king of television. But the past few years have seen Sony’s TV business in a downward spiral, bleeding cash as it has struggled to keep up with fierce competition from the likes of LG and Samsung. The problem has grown dire enough that the company announced in February a plan to split off its TV division into a wholly owned subsidiary and sell off its computer division entirely. Since that announcement, many have speculated that the spinoff might foreshadow a full-on sale of the TV division, as well – but not yet. Sony CEO, Kazuo “Kaz” Hirai, announced at a news conference held at Sony’s headquarters in Japan on Thursday that he has no intention of selling Sony’s TV division at this time. 

According to Japan Times, which attended the event, Hirai told the press that he is pleased Sony’s entertainment and financial businesses are faring well, but that he’s also “ashamed that we still haven’t turned around the electronics business.”

An all out sale of the TV line would be a difficult scenario to ponder considering Sony’s recent campaign to develop a complete 4K production chain, from “scene to screen,” which includes a 2014 TV line dominated by 4K televisions. Still, Hirai acknowledged that further steps may be necessary to rescue Sony’s TV branch, including an “equity tie-up,” though he quickly pointed out that Sony is “not doing business under the assumption that would happen,” according to Reuters

This is not the first time Hirai has had to defend Sony’s TV division since he was installed as CEO in 2012. Ten straight years of losses have had investors repeatedly calling for a sale since he took position, but Hirai has remained steadfast in his dedication to salvaging Sony’s electronics arm as a whole. 

Some analysts see the dedication to Sony electronics as a weakness of Hirai’s. Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute in Tokyo, told the LA Times that “Hirai lacks aggressiveness …” further indicating that Sony needed to pursue new avenues for growth in order to prop Sony up as a whole. Others have had more pointed criticism. Makoto Kikuchi, CEO for Myojo Asset Management Co., said that Sony’s TV business has little hope of every being profitable, adding, “Sony’s strengths are content such as games and movies. It cannot increase profit without moving its focus from TV production to content.”

For now, though, Hirai will continue to do what he can to mitigate Sony’s losses by spinning its TV division off into what is being called “Sony Visual Products.” That change is expected to take place sometime in July. What will happen from there is unclear, but for Hirai’s sake, we hope it puts a finger in Sony’s leaking dam long enough to rescue its TV brand. Otherwise, we could be looking at the end of a long legacy.