NEW YORK (
(SNE) is reportedly negotiating a sale of its Vaio personal computer business and may have a buyer. According to various sources, Sony is in negotiations to sell its PC division to investment fund Japan Industrial Partners.
The Nikkei news service reported Sony is seeking between $391 million and $489 million from the sale. It is believed Sony will remain involved in the new PC business by holding onto a small stake in the new enterprise.
The PC business sale is expected to push Sony into a net loss for the business year ending March 31. The projected 30 billion yen (nearly $300 million shortfall will be the first for the struggling electronics giant in the past two years.
In early New York trading, Sony stock was off more than 2% to $15.74.
The new Vaio line of computers will reportedly focus on business users. The products will continue to be sold in Japan and possibly in countries where the brand is well-established. Vaio's current 1,000 workers would either stay with the new firm or be transferred to other Sony divisions.
Sony launched the Vaio line back in 1996. According to recent IDC numbers, Sony posted a 1.9% share of PC sales placing the company in ninth place worldwide. Last week, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported Sony had been talking with China's Lenovo about a possible joint venture or takeover.
In related news, a respected Japanese journalist said that at one point Steve Jobs had been considering allowing Sony to produce computer hardware that would run Apple's Mac OS.
Nobuyuki Hayashi said Jobs was so fond of Sony PCs that at one point in 2001 he flew to Hawaii to meet with Sony execs on a golf course and show them a Vaio laptop running Apple's (AAPL) soon-to-be-announced overhauled operating system OS X.
Despite Jobs' and Sony's mutual admiration for each other's products, and with Microsoft (MSFT) Windows computer sales soaring, Apple decided not to let others build Mac-compatible hardware. It was more than four years later that Apple officially announced it was switching its computers and operating system from PowerPC to Intel (INTC) processors.
-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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