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New Sony CEO vows return to prominence

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai outlined his turnaround for the company, with a focus on its core consumer electronics division

Sony's new CEO wants to bring back the magic.

Kazuo Hirai, who became head of the company two weeks ago, said Thursday he would revive the foundering electronics giant with a renewed focus on the hit products that made its legacy.

"Our goal as Sony is to become a company that offers products and services that inspire our customers," he said to a packed press conference at the company's Tokyo headquarters.

The normally mild-mannered executive spoke forcefully, often raising his voice and holding up a clenched fist, as he repeatedly said he had faith in the company's employees to enact a turnaround. The iconic company has faced unrelenting criticism in the local press in recent months, with prominent newspapers and magazines running headlines such as "Farewell to the Legendary Sony."

Hirai outlined his corporate strategy days after Sony said it likely lost US$6.4 billion during the fiscal year that ended in March, its largest annual loss ever. His plan emphasizes growth in the company's core electronics division, with a focus on gaming, smartphones, and digital imaging.

"I absolutely believe that Sony will change," he said.

The executive spoke mostly on a broad, corporate level during his talk, but specifically addressed the company's lack of a hit product in recent years, a period when rivals like Apple and Samsung have had repeated runaway hits. He said he had heard hundreds of ideas for new products and services from company employees and would streamline Sony's research and development divisions.

Hirai's plan calls for a reduction of global head count by 10,000, or about 6 percent of its total workforce, during the current fiscal year. Some 3,000 of that will come from spinning off its chemical business, with the rest to be determined.

Some portion of the job cuts will come from its struggling TV business, which has lost money for eight straight years. The executive has said he will personally lead a return to profitability in the division and reiterated on Thursday, as he has often done in the past, that Sony has no plans to abandon televisions, which it mainly sells under the Bravia brand.

"Televisions are at the center of the household, and as a product are an important, core part of Sony's DNA, so the business will continue, especially as a return to profitability has come into view," he said.

Sony is due to release its official earnings for last fiscal year on May 10.


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