December 31, 2013 2:00 am JST

Sony plans more staff cuts in foundering electronics segment

SHUNSUKE TABETA, Nikkei staff writer

TOKYO -- Sony will begin offering early retirement to midlevel employees and managers at a Japanese subsidiary next month, aiming to shore up a home electronics business struggling with poor sales of its mainstay products.

     The program will be available to employees of wholly owned subsidiary Sony EMCS who are 40 years of age or older and have worked for the company for at least 10 years. Applications will be open from Jan. 6 through the end of March, and employees will leave the company by the end of April at the latest.

     Staffers who accept the early retirement offer will receive severance pay and be introduced to companies offering re-employment assistance.

     Sony has stated that participation in the program will be based on employee interest, with no target set in advance. The severance pay figure has also not been announced, but depending on age and length of employment, it may go up to 10 months' salary or more.

     Sony EMCS employs 5,000 and operates five production facilities in Japan. Staff at all locations will be eligible for the program, according to the company.

     After President Kazuo Hirai took the helm at Sony in April 2012, the company revamped its electronic products, aiming to revive a business segment bleeding red ink due to a sluggish domestic market and competition from South Korean rivals. It also trimmed its staff by 10,000 last fiscal year through early retirement and other measures, with Japan alone accounting for more than 3,000.

     Sony had anticipated a profit in the segment this fiscal year thanks to cuts to fixed expenses. But demand for digital cameras and computers has slumped with the rise of smartphones and tablets, and economic growth in emerging markets is flagging. The company downgraded full-year sales guidance for the majority of its products at the end of October.