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Sony Pictures sales slump not due to hack: CEO Hirai

Sony Corp. President and CEO Kazuo Hirai delivers a keynote address at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, Jan. 7, 2014.
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Sony Corp. President and CEO Kazuo Hirai delivers a keynote address at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, Jan. 7, 2014.

The hack of Sony Pictures last year was not behind the recent slump in the Japanese electronics giant's movie business, Sony's CEO told CNBC in an interview Wednesday.

At the end of last year, the Japanese titan's pictures unit was hacked with authorities blaming North Korea. A film called "The Interview," which involved a plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was pulled as a result but was eventually released. North Korea denied any involvement.

Sony's pictures unit saw sales and operating revenue for the three months ended June 30 drop 12 percent year over year to 171.5 billion yen ($1.42 billion) from 194.8 billion yen.

But Sony boss Kazuo Hirai told CNBC that the hack was not the reason for the fall in sales.

"I think this is not really something that is attributable to the cyberattack per se, it's really just a product lineup or portfolio pipeline issue, and one of the things that we've done recently is we've brought in a new management ... to make sure that we have a fresh pair of eyes to take a look at the studio operations going forward, both creatively and also from a business perspective as well," Hirai said in an interview at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin.

The attack left Sony embarrassed after hackers released a number of internal documents including emails sent to and from high-profile Hollywood stars as well as senior management.

In the wake of the hack, Sony shook up its management team bringing in ex-Fox film executive Tom Rothman to succeed Amy Pascal as CEO. Pascal was embarrassed during the hack after the attackers released emails which showed her being racially insensitive and joking that President Barack Obama's favorite films are all black-themed movies.

Sony has not been alone with businesses constantly under threat from hackers. Adultery website Ashley Madison was the latest victim after suffering a cyberattack in July.

Hirai said that Sony has strengthened its defenses but admits that no business can be fully protected from hackers.

"We beef up security every time, obviously. We look at this all the time. There's nothing that's perfect in that space, but we try to do everything that's possible to make sure that our information and all of the assets that we have are well-protected," Hirai said.