Sony may sell its handset business

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
19 Jan 2015
00:00
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As featured in Wireless Watch

The smartphone kings have become the old guard almost overnight but as new names like Xiaomi move in, the more established brands are turning to tactics old and new to revive themselves.

According to Reuters, Sony is considering selling its handset business altogether, after a string of refocusing efforts. Having bought Ericsson out of their joint venture, the Japanese firm hoped to be able to exploit its big brands and inhouse design expertise more effectively in the mobile world, and CEO Kazuo Hirai put smartphones, along with content, firmly at the heart of its his recovery plan over two years ago.

However, while the Xperia smartphones have been well received, and Sony has restructured its mobile activities around those higher margin items, it has not achieved its commercial goals. Its market share continues to dwindle and it has never managed to harness its more famous brands as it might have done. The long awaited PlayStation-branded phone never materialized, while Sony killed off its successful Walkman handsets – and when that venerable music brand was reborn at the CES show last week, there was only a high end player, not a phone.

With up-and-coming Chinese phonemakers on the look-out for acquisitions to gain scale and well-known brands – as in Lenovo’s purchase of Motorola and even TCL’s revival of the Palm name – this might be a good time to offload Sony Mobile, though the reports said no specific deal was on the cards, and other options might include strategic partnerships.

“Electronics in general, along with entertainment and finance, will continue to be an important business,” Sony Corp CEO Kazuo Hirai told reporters. “But within that there are some operations that will need to be run with caution – and that might be TV or mobile, for example.”

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