TOKYO -- Sony is in talks to unload its sluggish personal computer operations to investment fund Japan Industrial Partners, part of a business overhaul designed to shift focus to smartphones, The Nikkei learned Tuesday.
Under the plan, the fund will establish a new company to which Sony will sell its entire PC business. The sale price is estimated at 40 billion yen to 50 billion yen ($391 million to $489 million).
The new entity would continue to sell PCs under the Vaio brand and also handle after-sales service. To facilitate the transfer, Sony will take only a small stake in the firm, which will try to solidify its business base at home. While the company may maintain operations in overseas markets where the Vaio brand is well-known, it will withdraw from most countries and regions.
Sony's PC business has a staff of roughly 1,000. Many of them, including executives, will be taken on by the new firm, but some others will be transferred to other departments within Sony. The parties are discussing having Sony's PC site in Nagano Prefecture continue handling R&D and production under the new company.
The sale of the PC business will result in disposal losses, pushing Sony into a net loss for the first time in two years for the year ending March 31 -- a reversal from the projected 30 billion yen in profit. With TV and digital camera operations languishing, its electronics business is performing below expectations.
The Japanese consumer electronics titan made a full entry into information technology equipment by launching the Vaio brand of PCs back in 1996. Its annual PC shipments peaked at 8.7 million units but are now projected to fall to 5.8 million units this fiscal year. Sony was the ninth-ranked PC maker in the world with a 1.9% share of all PCs shipped during the January-September period of 2013, according to U.S. research firm IDC. Although Sony does not disclose earnings for the PC business, the segment is believed to be bleeding red ink.