Sony Corp CEO Howard Stringer took home $4.5 million plus stock options in the past financial year -- when the electronics giant lost close to $450 million -- making him one of the highest paid executives at a Japanese company.

The size of the Welsh-born chief's salary drew some grumbles, but little overt anger from the nearly 8,000 mostly elderly shareholders at the annual meeting in a Tokyo hotel on Friday.

New rules force reluctant Japanese companies to reveal what they pay executives earning over 100 million yen ($1.1 million) a year, and Sony, the maker of Bravia TVs, Vaio personal computers and PlayStation game consoles, is among the first to do so.

Most Japanese CEOs are thought to earn far less than Stringer, or Nissan Motor Co's Brazilian-born Carlos Ghosn, who is set to reveal his pay package later this month.

Rival electronics manufacturer Panasonic Corp said it would pay its 23 directors a total of 957 million yen -- or about one tenth each of Stringer's remuneration.

Stringer, a former TV producer, was voted back in as chairman and chief executive at the meeting, despite having struggled to significantly improve Sony's competitiveness since he took the top job in 2005.

Sony posted a net loss of 40.8 billion yen in the year to March and continues to play catch-up with rivals such as Samsung Electronics in TVs and Apple Inc in portable music. It has forecast a 160 billion yen profit for the current financial year.

Much depends on how well it does in its aggressive drive into 3D TV and motion-controlled gaming.

He's not produced results yet, but I think Sony is the only Japanese electronics maker that can transform itself to a horizontal business structure like Apple from a vertical one, because Sony still has strong brand power, said Keita Wakabayashi, an analyst at Mito Securities.


Shareholders said they welcomed the new openness on executive pay, but some were unhappy with the amount Stringer received. One asked him how he planned to take responsibility for the company's losses, but most kept their complaints for the journey home.

When you're making a loss, you need to tighten your own belt a bit, said 72-year-old Katsuhiko Koyanagi, a shareholder and former Sony employee. That's the Japanese way, but maybe he doesn't understand it.

Stringer received 410 million yen in fixed and performance related pay and also has options for 500,000 shares, which will only have cash value if Sony shares rise.

The stock fell 0.6 percent to 2,549 yen on Friday, and have dropped almost 30 percent since early April, knocking around $12 billion off the company's market value.

The new rules on declaring pay will affect a tiny percentage of executives.

Just 1.4 percent of directors and 8.3 percent of CEOs at listed companies in Japan took home more than 100 million yen in the year to March, according to a PriceWaterhouse Coopers survey.

Sony Vice Chairman Ryoji Chubachi received 150 million yen in pay, plus options for 80,000 shares.

External Director Sakie Fukushima told shareholders that executive pay was decided on the basis of global comparisons, taking into account the company's 7 trillion yen in revenues, the number of employees and the degree of complexity of the business.

($1=90.92 Yen)

(Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo and Nathan Layne, Editing by Ian Geoghegan)