JAPANESE electronics giant Sony saw its share price fall below the 1,000 yen (£8.32) barrier on Monday, for the first time since the global launch of its Walkman personal stereo in 1980.
The slide coincided with a wider sell-off on the Tokyo stock exchange, with concerns over weak United States jobs growth, a slowing Chinese economy and the eurozone crisis pushing the Topix index to its lowest level in 28 years.
Faced with strong competition from rivals including Apple and Samsung, Sony has posted losses for four straight years, while its core television business has suffered eight years of losses.
The group’s woes have been compounded by natural disasters in Japan and Thailand, while the strong yen has eaten into its export profits.
Shares in the company dipped as low as ¥990 yesterday before recovering slightly to end the session at ¥996, a fall of 1.7 per cent from the previous close.
Sony said it was first time that its share price had traded below ¥1,000 yen since August 1980 – the year its iconic Walkman portable cassette player was released to the world following its domestic launch in 1979. Shares in the company peaked at ¥16,950 in March 2000.
The group, which makes digital cameras, personal computers and PlayStation game consoles, and has a film-making arm responsible for blockbusters such as Men in Black 3 and the forthcoming James Bond instalment Skyfall, last month reported a record annual loss of ¥457 billion for the year to March 2012.
Earlier this year it appointed Kazuo Hirai as chief executive, replacing Welshman Sir Howard Stringer, who had headed the group since 2005.
Hirai – instrumental in the success of Sony’s video game business – is banking on the growing market for smartphones and tablet computers to turn the group around. It is forecasting a return to profit this year and plans to axe 10,000 jobs, about 6 per cent of its global workforce.
Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Securities, said: “Sony is in a vicious circle. It needs to cut people in order to improve its profitability, but if it does, people with skills will leave the company. Sony’s lost its ability to create excellent products.”
Despite fierce competition, Hirai remains committed to the TV business and has promised to cut costs in an effort to make the division profitable within the next two years.
After selling 220 million units worldwide, Sony stopped Japanese production of its Walkman in 2010. Last year it stopped making its portable MiniDisc player, a device which never enjoyed the global success of the Walkman.