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Sony mulls investor proposal to sell off movie, TV, and music units

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Report says sale could finance a reinvigoration of Sony's electronics units


With Sony under increasing pressure to get out of the entertainment business and get back to making great gadgets, company managers have begun to evaluate whether to sell off part of the unit that oversees movies, TV and music, according to a report today from Nikkei, a Japan-based newspaper.

The move follows comments made last week by Daniel Loeb, the US billionaire investor who owns $1.1 billion worth of Sony's stock, equal to about six percent of the company's outstanding shares. He said last week that he wanted Sony's leadership to sell off as much as 20 percent of the company's entertainment holdings, which includes Sony Pictures and Sony Music Entertainment, Reuters reported on Tuesday. Loeb suggested that the money from a sale could revitalize Sony's electronics business, which has been trounced by Apple and other rivals.

Les Moonves may have intrigued Loeb and other Sony investors Sony was once synonymous with electronics, the builder of all those popular TVs, DVD players, and Walkman cassette players. More recently, TV sales are soft, DVD sales are waning, and the iPod eclipsed the Walkman long ago. Meanwhile Les Moonves, CBS' CEO, may have intrigued Loeb and other Sony investors when he said in October he would be interested in acquiring Sony's film and TV businesses. Having a potential buyer at a time when the studio is facing significant challenges has to be tempting.

Powered by hit films such as Men in Black 3 and Skyfall, Sony Pictures generated $4.4 billion in worldwide ticket sales last year and came into this year tops in market share, The New York Times reported. But the paper also noted that Sony Pictures has thin profit margins, and it's not clear how any of the studios will make up the falling DVD sales. CEO Kazuo Hirai is scheduled to discuss his turnaround strategy, and possibly Loeb's proposal, tomorrow.

Update: Hirai has addressed the proposal at Sony's corporate strategy meeting and confirmed that the company will give it some thought. "The proposal from Third Point, Dan Loeb is something that we should discuss thoroughly at a board meeting and then we'll decide Sony's stance," quotes the Wall Street Journal. "Therefore, we are now going to start the discussion and we are still at the starting stage." Hirai didn't elaborate on when Loeb's proposal might be discussed, or his personal feelings on the eventual outcome.