Japan's Sony Corp., struggling with a loss-making television business, is considering dissolving its liquid-crystal-display joint venture with South Korea's Samsung Electronics in a bid to cut costs, sources familiar with the matter said Sunday.
The Nikkei business daily also reported the news, saying electronics and entertainment giant Sony was aiming to reach an agreement by the end of this year to sell its nearly 50 percent stake in joint venture S-LCD to Samsung.
Sony needs to step up outsourcing to reduce procurement costs and cope with rapidly declining prices of LCD panels due to a global oversupply.
Industry sources told Reuters in Tokyo that Sony hoped to dissolve the joint venture quickly, but that it had yet to agree terms or timing with Samsung.
Representatives of both Sony and Samsung Electronics declined to comment.
South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo had a similar report on the joint venture breakup in July, which Sony denied.
A well-informed industry source told Reuters in Seoul that such reports seem to be distorted because Sony has been negotiating with Samsung over its return on investment in the joint venture, rather than shareholdings.
Under the contract on the LCD joint venture, the two parties are allowed to discuss such matters, which outsiders could misunderstand as a step for Sony to withdraw from the joint venture, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In April, the two companies cut capital in the joint venture by $555 million as Sony sought to slash its TV losses and Samsung pushed ahead with next-generation displays.
Sony is under pressure to show it can reduce its exposure to the loss-making TV unit and concentrate on developing its strategy for smartphones.
Last week, it announced it will take control of its mobile-phone joint venture with Ericsson as it seeks to exploit its music and video applications to help it catch smartphone leaders such as Apple Inc.
Sony reports July-September results on Wednesday. Analysts are forecasting Sony will fall short of its operating earnings outlook of 200 billion yen ($2.63 billion) for the year to March 2012, as the strong yen bites into profits and as consumer confidence wobbles in Europe and the United States.
The electronics giant, which competes with Samsung and LG Electronics in televisions, needs to slash costs as it heads for its eighth straight annual loss in its TV business.
Sony has already sold off TV factories in Spain, Slovakia, and Mexico in the past few years and outsources more than half of production to companies including Hon Hai Precision Industry. It retains four TV plants of its own in Japan, Brazil, China, and Malaysia.
($1 = 75.760 Japanese yen)
(Additional reporting by Rie Ishiguro and Isabel Reynolds in TOKYO and Sung-Won Shim in SEOUL; Editing by Ron Popeski)