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Sony’s Incoming CEO Kenichiro Yoshida Says Change Is ‘Urgent’

Kenichiro Yoshida, named to succeed Kaz Hirai as the next CEO of Sony Corp., said Friday that change remains an urgent priority at the Japanese electronics-to-entertainment conglomerate.

“I returned to Sony four years ago, after 14 years at So Net,” Yoshida said at a briefing in Tokyo following publication of the group’s third-quarter financial results. “I was impressed by Hirai’s no-nonsense approach to dealing with problems. Nevertheless, Sony has not been able to surpass itself for many years.”

Yoshida added: “I share with Mr. Hirai the same sense of an urgent need for change. Our position in the global market is very different to where it was 20 years ago.”

Yoshida said that the “vector of his approach” at Sony would be largely the same as Hirai’s strategy, but the expression of it would likely be different. In his remarks, he stressed the importance of the technology side of Sony’s business.

“Market cap is not everything, but the top global companies now are all technology companies….Since Sony is a technology company we feel a sense of crisis about that situation,” Yoshida said, adding that he intends to manage the company “with the market cap in mind.”

Yoshida has been executive in charge of Sony’s internal strategy and is seen as the executive most responsible for putting Hirai’s cost-cutting program into place. Hirai said Friday that he and his successor shared “a common vision for the company” and that Yoshida would work to realize the five-year business plan that Hirai was instrumental in developing.

“We have been working together for four years and are in agreement on many things,” Hirai said. “Starting on April 1, Mr. Yoshida will be the leader and bring in his own management team. As chairman I will provide advice and support him in any way I can.”

A formal strategic review is set to take place in April. Nevertheless, Yoshida said he would make a presentation on strategy shortly after the group’s financial results presentation. On Friday, the group reported third-quarter profits of $2.6 billion, including a return to profit for its previously loss-making Pictures Division.

Sony Corp.’s shares were up 1.9% by close of trading on the Tokyo exchange Friday, on a day when the wider Japanese stock market slipped.

Mark Schilling contributed to this report.

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