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Sony To Shed PC Unit Amid Projected $1.1B Loss

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Electronics and media group Sony  (SNE) on Thursday, Feb. 6, announced plans to sell its PC business and split off its TV unit as it unexpectedly forecast a ¥110 billion ($1.1 billion) loss for the year ending March.

The company has been struggling to improve returns at its electronics business for more than two years. Last year it became the target of an activist campaign by Dan Loeb's Third Point, which wanted Sony to sell off part of its media business.

Sony said it will sell its Vaio-branded PC business to investment firm Japan Industrial Partners. The companies plan to sign a firm deal by the end of March and complete the sale by July 1. The standalone company will initially concentrate on selling consumer and corporate PCs in Japan in a bid to stabilize profit, Sony said. Sony will have an initial 5% stake in the business.

Japan Investment Partners in 2012 bought the ITX phone retailing unit of Olympus for ¥52 billion. Other investments, according to the investor's website, include restaurant chain Skylark, which Bain Capital has owned since 2011.

"JIP has extensive experience with "strategic carve-outs," whereby it supports companies in the process of relinquishing businesses or subsidiaries as part of a process of focus and selection, provides necessary investment to the relinquished business or subsidiary and helps realize the business's growth potential as an independently operated entity," said Sony.

The announcement, while specifying few terms, ends weeks of speculation about Sony's plans for the PC business. Last week it was forced to deny that it was exploring a joint venture with China's Lenovo Group, which relieved International Business Machines  (IBM) of its PC division in 2005 and which has in the past fortnight agreed to buy businesses from IBM and Google  (GOOG) worth more than $5 billion in total.

Sony also said it would split off it TV business into a standalone -- but wholly owned -- subsidiary by July. It warned that the TV business won't return to profitability in the fiscal year ending March. But Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai told journalists on Thursday the company has no immediate plans to sell the TV business.

Sony said it plans to cut 5,000 jobs to reduce costs in its electronics business by a fifth and cut 30% from its head office and support-function overheads.

The ¥110 billion loss forecast for the 2013 to 2014 fiscal year compares with Sony's October prediction that it would make a ¥30 billion profit. Last year it made a net profit of ¥43 billion.

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