* Sony TV can make profit even if sales miss target - exec
* Sony TVs to be fitted with Android OS 'L' from 2015 - exec
* Would consider LG Display sourcing to make an OLED TV-exec
(Adds executive's comments, details on TV losses and OLED
By Sophie Knight and Reiji Murai
TOKYO, June 30 Only a "natural disaster" could
keep Sony Corp's TV division from returning to profit
this year, the head of the newly independent business said on
Monday, after a decade in the red and repeated missed promises
of a turnaround.
Masashi Imamura told a media round table that the TV
business, which will become a separate subsidiary of Sony Corp
on July 1, could better respond to market fluctuations after
taking a scalpel to fixed costs last year and tackling expenses
at distribution companies next.
The TV business, which has racked up around 790 billion yen
of losses over the past 10 years, has been one of the main
contributors to persistent losses in Sony's flagship electronics
division, which Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai has promised to
restore to profit.
Sony has forecast an 18.5 percent rise in TV sales to 16
million units this year from 13.5 million units a year ago,
drawing scepticism from analysts who said that was well above
the industry's average growth forecast.
Imamura said the sales target was achievable and was
confident Sony could make a profit even in a worst-case
scenario. He added it could now absorb the sort of fluctuations
in emerging market currencies that were partly to blame for last
Sony says splitting off its TV division will boost
transparency and accountability. Some analysts have speculated
the move was a first step towards selling it off completely,
which the company has denied.
Hirai said at a corporate strategy meeting last month that
the company had not ruled out an equity tie-up for the TV
business, which is to be known as Sony Visual Products Inc,
although nothing had been decided on the matter.
Sony's share of the TV market has been battered over the
past 10 years as South Korean rivals Samsung Electronics Co Ltd
and LG Electronics caught up in
technology while competing fiercely on price.
Sony and its rivals are focusing on ultra high definition
'4K' models as a potential new source of profit, but while Sony
is sticking with liquid-crystal displays, both Korean companies
are also promoting curved-screen sets using organic
light-emitting diode (OLED) technology.
Recent media reports have suggested LG Electronics' display
arm may supply Sony and compatriot Panasonic Corp with
OLED TV panels as it looks to promote adoption of the
technology. LG Display Co Ltd said last week it
would start production on a new OLED TV line from July that
would increase total capacity for large panels to 34,000 units
"Whether LG Display is our supplier or not, if an OLED panel
matched our product strategy then I can't say we wouldn't use
the technology," Imamura said. "Right now we have no plans to
invest in any OLED or LCD factory."
While Sony was one of the original pioneers of OLED
technology, it does not currently use it for any consumer
gadgets and has not announced any plans to do so.
Imamura, the longest-serving of Sony's six TV chiefs over
the past 10 years with almost three years' tenure, said he
believed the TV market was more stable and had more opportunity
than other consumer gadgets such as PCs.
"I think the market is stable at around 200 million, which
is a huge opportunity. The PC has changed into the tablet,
digital cameras have turned into smartphones ... but customers
still buy a new TV every five years," he said.
Imamura said Sony would begin next year to sell top-end
Bravia TVs fitted with Google Inc's upcoming 'L'
Android operating system, announced last week at the U.S.
company's I/O developers' conference in San Francisco.
Sony's shares are down 8 percent so far this year, in line
with the benchmark Nikkei average's 7 percent drop. On
Monday, they ended 0.2 percent higher at 1,682 yen, compared
with the Nikkei's 0.4 percent rise.
(Additional reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Edmund
Klamann, Miral Fahmy and Mark Potter)