According to a report from Nikkei, Sony is thinking about selling off its Vaio brand in the wake of sliding sales. The company reportedly wants to dedicate more resources to smartphones, another area the company continues to struggle, but needs to offload its personal computer operations in order to make a bigger push. Talks are allegedly ongoing with investment fund Japan Industrial Partners, with an estimated sale price between $391 million to $489 million U.S.
Nikkei’s sources say that despite the sale, the Vaio brand will live on under the new ownership—Japan Industrial Partners would continue to sell Vaio PCs and also handle after-sales service. If both parties can come to an agreement, Sony will reportedly accept a small stake in the firm. Operations would allegedly continue in markets where the Vaio brand is strong, but otherwise exit from most countries and regions, Nikkei said. Once the deal goes through, most of the staff at Sony’s PC business, which sits at roughly 1,000, will be absorbed into the firm; others will be transferred to internal Sony departments.
The Vaio brand of PCs has been a staple of Sony since 1996, with annual PC shipments once peaking at 8.7 million units, Nikkei said; this fiscal year, shipments are expected to fall below 6 million units. The latest data gathered by U.S. research firm IDC revealed Sony had just 1.9-percent of all PCs shipped during the January-September period of last year. Despite making some excellent Windows 8 laptops, including some convertible flip devices, sources close to Sony claim its PC business is “bleeding red ink.”
Sony had perhaps the biggest presence at CES this year, showing off some great new handsets and announcing big new services for its PlayStation 4, including PlayStation Now. Based on last month’s showing, it would seem Sony is regaining the confidence that many believe has been missing since the 90s. With its Vaio brand potentially on the way out, we’ll see if its smartphone division gets the jolt Sony is hoping. The company is already off to a good start with the Xperia Z1 Compact.