Sony in Talks to Find Customers for Car Batteries

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Sony Corp. is in talks to find customers for rechargeable car batteries, an industry that the Japanese electronics maker plans to enter to help the company revive earnings.

Sony is in talks to supply “several companies” with lithium-ion car batteries, Executive Deputy President Hiroshi Yoshioka told reporters in Tokyo today, declining to identify the potential customers. Yoshioka on Nov. 19 said Sony plans to spend 100 billion yen ($1.15 billion) researching and developing rechargeable batteries, including for electric cars.

The Tokyo-based maker of Bravia televisions last week identified car batteries, 3-D electronics and network services as three new businesses that will spur Sony’s growth. Demand for rechargeable car batteries is projected to surge as automakers including Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. increase production of electric and gasoline-electric hybrid models.About 30 percent to 50 percent of the televisions Sony sells in the year ending March 2013 will display 3-D images, Yoshioka told reporters today. The company, which plans to start selling 3-D TVs and PlayStation game consoles next year, said last week 3-D electronics will generate more than 1 trillion yen in the 12 months ending March 2013.

New Businesses

Sony is turning to new businesses such as 3-D, online software services and car batteries to revive growth as the company heads for its first back-to-back annual losses in half a century. In April, Chief Executive Officer Howard Stringer reorganized the company’s main electronics operations into two divisions, headed by Yoshioka, 57, and Kazuo Hirai, 48.

Sony, which recalled more than 9 million laptop batteries in 2006, is lagging behind Sanyo Electric Co. entering the car battery market. Osaka-based Sanyo, the world’s largest maker of rechargeable batteries, is boosting production capacity as the company estimates global sales of hybrid cars using lithium-ion cells will grow to 2 million units by 2015 and 7.48 million units by 2020.

Global lithium-ion battery sales will likely grow to 2 trillion yen in 2020 from 840 billion yen in 2008, fueled by demand for batteries used in electric cars and hybrid vehicles, Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd. estimated in January.

Yoshioka said the impact of the recent appreciation of the yen against the dollar will likely be “very small” for Sony, which is projecting an exchange rate of 90 yen to the dollar for the fiscal second half to March 2010. The dollar dropped to a 14-year low against the yen today.

Sony fell 1.9 percent to close at 2,370 yen in Tokyo trading, compared with a 0.6 percent decline by the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mariko Yasu in Tokyo at myasu@bloomberg.net.

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Through out my years, Sony has been a passion of mine.

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