UPDATE 1-Sony sells New York HQ in time to bolster profit return bid

Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:50pm EST

TOKYO Jan 18 (Reuters) - Sony Corp has sold its 37-storey New York headquarters for $1.1 billion, realising a gain of $685 million it can book as operating income and helping its bid to return to profit.

The sale to real estate developer The Chetrit Group will be completed before the end of March, Sony said in a statement. For the year ending March 31, the company is forecasting operating profit of $1.45 billion compared with a $753 million loss a year earlier.

Sony and Japan's other big consumer electronic gadget makers are resorting to asset sales to boost their finances as they fight to end losses in their television units, hammered by competition from South Korean rivals led by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

Sony, Panasonic Corp and Sharp Corp also plan to offload buildings and businesses in a garage sale that could raise a combined $3 billion over the next few months.

Sony is mulling the sale of its battery business, which makes lithium ion power packs for tablets, PCs and mobile phones, Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai said at the CES electronics show in Las Vegas last week. He added that the maker of Bravia TVs would also consider offloading other non-core assets.

In September Sony sold its chemical unit which employs 2,900 workers to a state-owned Japanese bank for $704 million.

While rival Panasonic is revamping its business around batteries, auto parts and household appliances, Sony is banking on smartphones, gaming and cameras. Sharp is focusing on display screens and forging alliances with the likes of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry and U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc .

The fixed assets - buildings, land and machinery - of the three companies total around $42 billion, exceeding their combined market value of $32 billion.

Sony's shares gained 6.7 percent in Tokyo to 1,093 yen, compared with a 2.2 percent gain in the benchmark Nikkei 225 index.

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