Sony President Steps Down After Loss Projected

Sony Corp. said Friday that Ryoji Chubachi is stepping down as president, and Howard Stringer, chairman and chief executive, will stay on, adding the presidency as another title.

The Japanese electronics and entertainment company, battered by the global slump and the strong yen, is projecting its first annual net loss in 14 years.

Sony said Chubachi will step down April 1. Further details weren't immediately available. But the Tokyo-based company said it is holding a news conference later Friday on new management, and Stringer will be there.

Chubachi, 61, oversees Sony's core electronics sector, at the center of the unfolding economic woes at one of Japan's most famous manufacturers. He became president in 2005, when Welsh-born American Stringer, 67, became the first foreigner to head Sony.

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Both executives had promised a dramatic turnaround at Sony, the maker of Bravia flat-panel televisions, PlayStation 3 game machine and Cyber-shot digital cameras.

But the global slowdown — hitting during the key year-end shopping season — and the surging yen, which erodes foreign earnings, have proved too much. Sony is particularly vulnerable to overseas demand because exports make up about 80 percent of its sales.

Sony is expecting a 150 billion yen net loss for the fiscal year through March. That's a reversal from a net profit of 369.4 billion yen the previous year.

The last — and only — time Sony reported a loss, for the fiscal year ending March 1995, the red ink came from one-time losses in its movie division, marred by box office flops and lax cost controls.

The latest projection underlines the serious problems at its electronics division, where Sony has in recent years lost out to rivals like Samsung Electronics Co. and Sharp Corp. in flat-panel TVs, and even in Walkman equivalents to Apple Inc.'s iPod.

Sony has already said it is slashing 8,000 of its 185,000 jobs around the world and shutter five or six plants — about 10 percent of its 57 factories. It is also trimming another 8,000 temporary workers who aren't included in the global work force tally.

There had been some speculation that Sony executives will be stepping down to give the company a fresh start.

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