Shares of Sony have lost half its value in the past year. The company was hit on all fronts, drop in stock price, market share and natural disasters.
Maria Bartiromo spoke exclusively with CEO Howard Stringer about all these issues and about speculation of management changes at Sony.
On Friday, the Nikkei Business Daily reported that Kazuo Hirai will take over as Sony President, leaving Stringer as Chairman and CEO. Stringer responded, “It hasn't been approved yet. The succession planning in that arena is my responsibility and, as you know, I started as Chairman and CEO, and I'm simply returning to that.” When Maria pushed Stringer if this will take in effect in April, Stringer said “we need a board meeting for that.”
“Glass Half Empty, Glass Half Full" Scenario
2011 was a tough year for Sony with the stock down 50%. Natural disasters struck; Japan’s earthquake and floods in Thailand had a huge impact on Sony’s suppliers. Sony also lost ground to competitors like Samsung and Panasonic on the TV front. Stringer sees it as “glass half empty, glass half full” scenario. Stringer said Sony is still facing the reality of shortages. But now, “everything's cleared, the decks are cleared,” Stringer said. “We've done the Sony-Ericsson deal. We've moved away from the Samsung joint venture. So we think we're now ready to concentrate on a new year. Unless meteorites shower on us, I think we'll be back in business again, and we're rather looking forward to it. This is kind of a kickoff to a brand-new year,” Stringer added.
Sony’s Smartphone Biz
Sony’s Stringer told Bartiromo, “any company that lost effectively, to natural disasters, $3-to-$4 billion, you've got to find that $3-to-$4 billion.” At CES, you can see Stringer’s answer to that with product unveilings in the smartphone, tablet and television space.
“Sony Ericsson now belongs to us,” Stringer said. “We can create a smartphone business. That's very exciting.”
Sony Gets into Cloud
Stringer expects Sony make a big push in the world of “cloud”. Stringer said, “Sony has always had everything that you can imagine. More connection to the customer than anybody else through our movies, our television, our products, our wireless features, and so forth. So we pull all that together as we have--we promised to do last year, then we'll be back in business with a vengeance. But last year, there were a lot of distractions.”
Sony’s Financial Services Biz
Did you even know Sony has a financial services business? Financial services business was actually the biggest contributor to Sony's operating income in the past two years. Stringer admits that its financial services business is not a “core business” but it’s a business that “generates so much cash flow”. Stringer added “it's very well run and it's in Japan and it's about Japan. So it's been immune to the global vicissitudes that everybody else has had, and so it's been profitable.”
Sony’s Music & Entertainment Biz
In Sony’s music and entertainment division, big things are clearly happening. Music artist Adele is now selling more albums in 2011 than any artist annually since 2004. The company is celebrating 100 Grammy and Golden Globe nominations. Stringer says “Adele alone is single-handedly giving the music company a cache that it's thoroughly enjoying.” And when it comes to movies, Sony Pictures is releasing what hopes to be huge box office sequels…such as the next James Bond movie, Men In Black and Spiderman.
Donna Burton contributed to this article.
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