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Sony CEO forced to shush shareholder heckling at fiery AGM

Kazuo Hirai stays, says THIS turnaround plan is the one that'll do the trick

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Sony yesterday endured a fiery annual general meeting at which investors heckled CEO Kazuo Hirai.

Over a decade of strife, the Japanese giant has become a byword for red ink, failed turnarounds and missed boats. Rivals like Samsung and LG have thrashed it in old markets like televisions while Apple beat it into new markets like smartphones.

Shareholders think that's not right and that the company that brought the world the Walkman should produce a never-ending stream of similarly zeitgeist-defining hits.

The AGM was reportedly a rowdy affair during which Hirai attempted, with little success, to quiet heckling shareholders. One tactic for doing so was insisting that Sony's entertainment -making businesses won't be spun off or out, as has happened with its PC and television arms.

Shedding Vaio and shunting televisions into an independent company are key parts of Hirai's plan to turn around Sony's long string of losses. That the string continues irks investors, who wonder when or if the promised land of a stable, profitable, Sony will ever be reached.

Hirai insisted fiscal 2014 will be the year the company stabilises and also hinted at new products, saying Sony engineers are full of red hot ideas the company feels it can coagulate into hits.

Despite the testy meeting, shareholders re-elected Hirai and other senior executives and signed off on its compensation plans.

Hirai says his re-org won't staunch the losses before next year. If he's wrong, next year's AGM could be even less civil. ®

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