Sony Corp. is in talks to sell its battery business to a state-backed investment fund, according to a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations.
Innovation Network Corp. of Japan hasn’t made an offer for the acquisition yet, said the person, who declined to be identified as the information isn’t public.
Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the world’s largest contract maker of electronics, has also shown interest in the buyout, the Nikkei business newspaper reported Saturday.
Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai has said he would consider alliances for the battery unit as he seeks to refocus the manufacturer on mobile devices, including smartphones, after logging around ¥840 billion in losses over the past four years. Sales of the company’s Bravia TVs, PlayStation game consoles, Handycam video recorders and Cyber-shot digital cameras may further decline this year in the face of competition from overseas rivals, including South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co.
Lithium-ion batteries, used in smartphones, personal computers, tablets and plug-in electric vehicles, account for the largest portion of the global market for rechargeable cells. Sony’s market share in lithium-ion batteries fell to 6.9 percent in the April-June quarter this year, down from 15.4 percent in the first quarter of 2008, according to Tokyo-based Techno Systems Research Co.
Sony’s battery business posted sales of about ¥142.5 billion in the year that ended in March, the Nikkei newspaper said Saturday. The unit had about 2,700 employees as of September, according to the report.
Shares of Tokyo-based Sony have fallen 34 percent this year, the sixth-worst performance on the benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average, which has gained 18 percent. The company maintained its forecast for a ¥20 billion profit this fiscal year even though it posted a seventh straight quarterly loss last month.
Sony had its credit rating cut to junk status last month by Fitch Ratings, which said slumping demand for televisions, the impact of the strong yen and weakened economic conditions both at home and overseas will leave the electronics maker struggling to regain its former status as market leader.
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