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Sony, relying on Europe for sales, shows off new products

In order to handle the manufacturing capacity, Sony will open a television plant in Nitra, Slovakia.

Sony opened up the spigot on new products Tuesday, attempting to close out its fiscal year with a focus on its rebounding consumer electronics business and robust European sales growth. Over all, Europe now accounts for more of Sony's electronics revenue - 29% - than any other region, said Fujio Nishida, president of Sony Europe, in part because of strong sales of large flat-screen display television sets in the Bravia line. „The electronics business recovery is proving that we are revitalized” from a difficult period several years ago, Nishida said during an interview by telephone Tuesday.

The division will likely register 12% sales growth in Europe for the company's fiscal year, which ends Friday, he said. The division had €8.22 billion ($11 billion) in sales last year, while Sony's total sales in Europe, which include video game products and movies, were €12.61 billion. But Nishida acknowledged that Germany, the largest economy in Europe, remained a difficult retail market for the company, with cutthroat price competition. Germany is, he said, „the only country that is lagging behind our expectations. At a press event Tuesday in Greece, Sony introduced devices for Europe, including the first Blu-ray Disc player for the region, the first Walkman portable audio device that can play videos, a car navigation system that responds to hand gestures. Also on tap is a Cyber-Shot T100 digital camera with 8-megapixel resolution and face-detection technology. The collection highlighted Sony's emphasis on high-definition technology, which renders video in ultra-sharp resolution and colors, and its HD-ready Bravia line of TVs. Sony Europe sold one million Bravias in its last fiscal year. Nishida said he expected to finish the current year with 2.5 million, and he forecast a similar doubling of unit sales in the 12-month period that starts Sunday.

In order to handle the manufacturing capacity, Sony will open a television plant in Nitra, Slovakia, in September with a work force of 3,000. The European displays are currently made in plants in Trnava, Slovakia, and Barcelona. Balancing the success of the Bravia is the big question mark hanging over PlayStation 3, which is part of a different Sony division. The game console, which was introduced in Europe last week, four months after its Japanese and American debut, cannot play some of the software designed for its predecessor, the PlayStation 2, because Sony decided to bring down costs by not equipping the European version with a special computer chip. Nishida, cautioning that no official figures had been tallied yet, said the company was aiming to achieve one million PS3 sales in Europe by the end of this week and had reached about half of that already. (