TOKYO — Sony prexy Kazuo Hirai told a presser Wednesday that the company’s board will “thoroughly discuss” the proposal by Third Point investment fund manager and major Sony stockholder Daniel Loeb to spin off a chunk of its entertainment biz to underwrite the revival of its core electronics segment.
Hirai did not give an exact timetable for a decision, though expectations are that an answer will come within a month. He also emphasized that the idea is not to sell the entertainment biz, but rather offer 15% to 20% of it for an IPO. “We are still at the starting stage,” he added.
The Nikkei newspaper earlier Wednesday reported that Sony will hire advisers to help them sort out Loeb’s proposal.
Steady profits from Sony’s entertainment biz, including television channels and the Sony Pictures studio, have helped the company offset the long and large bleed of red ink from its television biz, which Hirai vowed to radically restructure after taking over from Howard Stringer as prexy last April.
Last month Sony reported its first net profit in five years, but it achieved this goal more through the massive sell off of real estate and other assets than improvement in its still ailing electronic biz.
Hirai said that the electronics segment will show an operating profit of 5% by March 2015. In the same time frame Sony aims for a 4% operating profit on its mobile biz and at least a 10% operating profit on its digital imaging biz — both key growth sectors as defined by Hirai.
After Loeb made his proposal on May 14 to sell off as much as 20% of Sony’s film, TV and music biz, the company’s share price soared, despite a Sony statement that its entertainment operations are “not for sale.”
Loeb’s Third Point fund is Sony’s largest shareholder with a reported 6.5% stake worth $1.1 billion and Loeb personally met Hirai last week to discuss his proposal, lending weight to speculation that Sony might meet Loeb at least half way rather than dig in its heels.