OCT 6 - Sony Corp is nearing a deal to buy out Telefon AB LM Ericsson's stake in their 50:50 smartphone joint venture, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday citing people familiar with the matter.
The joint venture's two parent companies have regularly discussed the nature of Sony Ericsson's ownership structure, according to the report. It said the talks were ongoing and could break apart at anytime.
Ericsson and Sony declined to comment on the reported talks.
We have a long-term commitment to our joint ventures, said an Ericsson spokesman.
Many analysts say Japan's Sony needs to assert control over Sony Ericsson if the venture is to recoup market share in the cut-throat world of smartphones.
Sony and Ericsson's joint venture, formed in 2001, thrived after its breakthrough with Walkman music phones and Cybershot cameraphones, both of which leveraged Sony's brands.
But it lost out to leaner rivals at the cheaper end of the market, and its share of total handset sales has dropped to below 3 percent from more than 9 percent at its peak.
A buyout would make a lot of sense for Ericsson as I believe their share in the joint venture is worth to them between zero and minus 1 billion euros ($1.33 billion), said Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu.
Whatever price they agree on, it would be a positive for Ericsson, he said.
Shares in Sweden's Ericsson gained further on the report and closed 6 percent higher at 69.20 crowns on Thursday.
A full takeover of the venture would boost Sony's overall offering, which includes content, gaming devices, consumer electronics and even tablet computers, but is still missing its own smartphones.
The buyout allows Sony to move development in-house and better integrate other products like gaming into newer phones, said Steven Nathasingh from U.S. technology research firm Vaxa Inc.
Last month at the IFA trade fair in Berlin Sony Ericsson's phones were presented inside the Sony hall, mixed with Sony's TV sets and new tablets.
(Reporting by Tarmo Virki, Yinka Adegoke, Anna Ringstrom, Sven Nordenstam and Liana Balinsky-Baker; Editing by Erica Billingham)