Walkman, Trinitron, PlayStation: In the US, we know Sony as a longtime player in the electronics world. But its electronics arm has lost $8.5 billion over the past decade, the New York Times reports. In fact, the driver of its current success is its insurance business, which doesn't exist in the US or Europe. In Japan, however, the company sells life, auto, and medical insurance, and last year, some 63% of its total operating profit came from its financial operations. Life insurance has brought in $9.07 billion in such profit for the company over the past decade.
It's figures like these that have some analysts calling for drastic action. "Electronics is its Achilles’ heel and, in our view, it is worth zero," says a report issued this week by investment bank Jefferies. “In our view, it needs to exit most electronics markets." US hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb has a different plan: He says the company should spin off its successful music and film business (Sony has been behind entertainment ranging from Spider-Man to Daft Punk) and use that cash to fund its electronics arm. Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai says the firm will consider Loeb's idea, but he made his views clear last week: "Electronics has a future. And it is in Sony’s DNA," he said. "It is my mission to revive it." (Read more Sony stories.)