Sony pitches new flat TV's to boost share

CIOL Bureau
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TOKYO: Electronics conglomerate Sony Corp. unveiled eight new flat-screen televisions in a product push it hopes will help it secure a leading 35 percent of the domestic market in the key month of December.

Sony, which counts Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. and Sharp Corp. among its chief rivals in liquid crystal display (LCD) and plasma display (PDP) televisions, also expressed confidence that its TV division would recover.

"I'm certain there will be no problem with the profitability of our TV's this year," said Makoto Kogure, who oversees Sony's TV operations, which posted an 8.5 billion-Yen ($77.72 million,) operating loss in the latest quarter to June 30.

Kogure's comments came at a briefing where Sony took the wraps off a new line-up of flat TV's, including two in its premium "Qualia" series, which will go on sale domestically in November, and six "Wega" models that will hit stores in Japan next month.

The new TV's will be launched globally later this year and into 2005, Sony said.

Sales of plasma and LCD TV's have been strong in recent months and are expected to continue to expand rapidly over the next several years as consumers trade in bulky cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions for sleeker flat-screen models.

But Sony did not introduce as many new models as Matsushita and some of its other rivals in the run-up to the Athens Olympics this month, choosing to wait for the year-end shopping period, when it sees its heaviest demand.

"There will be a peak in the flat TV market this year-end season the likes of which has never been seen before," said Kiyoshi Shikano, corporate vice president of Sony Marketing Japan. "That is the main reason we unveiled these TV's today."

On the back of the new products, Shikano said Sony was aiming to secure 35 percent of the domestic flat TV market in December, up from 30 percent in the same month last year. He said the company would shoot for a similar share of the global market.

Sony said the two Qualia TV's -- a 40-inch and a 46-inch model -- would be the first LCD TV's to employ light-emitting diodes (LED) as a backlight unit, allowing for a wider production of colours than LCD TV's using a conventional source of light.

Most manufacturers have been using cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL) as a light source for LCD TV's.

The 46-inch Qualia model will sell for 1.1025 million yen ($10,080) and the 40-inch TV will go for 840,000 yen, Sony said.

In the Wega series, Sony's new 50-inch plasma TV will sell for 1.029 million yen, the 42-inch plasma set will go for 777,000 yen and the 37-inch plasma set is expected to retail for 661,500 yen.

Sony will also sell 40-inch, 32-inch, and 26-inch LCD TV's under the Wega name.

Shares of Sony ended Thursday up 2.22 percent at 3,680 yen, while Matsushita rose 1.41 percent to 1,436 yen and Sharp inched 0.67 percent higher to 1,498 yen. The benchmark Nikkei average closed up 1.20 percent.