Sony Corp. marked the 60th anniversary of its founding Sunday at a time when the company is struggling to regain its glory with a full recovery in its core electronics business.
Sony’s history overlaps Japan’s recovery from the ashes after World War II. The company, launched as a 20-person firm on May 7, 1946, by Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita, has become internationally renowned, with the number of group employees now totaling more than 150,000 and annual sales topping 7 trillion yen.
The company launched Japan’s first magnetic tape recorder in 1950, the first transistor radio in 1955 and the first Walkman personal stereo in 1979.
Sony’s innovative products helped change the image of Japanese products, which mostly had been seen as cheap and unfashionable, and gave new popularity to the stamp “made in Japan.”
Sony was a front-runner among Japanese companies in developing foreign markets, establishing a U.S. subsidiary in 1960. More than 70 percent of its group sales today comes from overseas.
The company has also been active in the movie industry and the financial business. It purchased Columbia Pictures Entertainment Inc., now Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., in 1989 and established Sony Bank in 2001.
In recent years, however, Sony has performed poorly due partly to sluggishness in its mainstay electronics business. The company has lagged behind rivals in marketing panel televisions.
Sony implemented a top management reshuffle last June. Howard Stringer replaced Nobuyuki Idei as chairman and group chief executive officer, becoming the first foreigner to lead a major electronics company here.
Under the new management, Sony is making efforts to rev up its business by returning the electronics business to health.
Due to the popularity of its new Bravia TV line, Sony took the top share in the global market for liquid crystal display TVs in the October-December period. But analysts say it will take time for Sony to stage a full recovery.
In its consolidated earnings results released last month, Sony said its group operating profit for the year to March 31 rose 68 percent from the previous year to 191.3 billion yen.
The figure underscores Sony’s budding recovery but the company anticipates a 48 percent fall in consolidated operating profit for the year ending next March, mostly because of costs related to the launch of the PlayStation 3. The next-generation game console is scheduled to hit the market in November.
Sony is also scheduled to launch its Blu-ray DVD players in North America in July and introduce digital single lens reflex cameras this summer.
Sony earlier this year took over part of the assets related to digital SLR cameras from Konica Minolta Holdings Inc. for an undisclosed sum.