Sony CEO praises Japan's prime minister for 'Abenomics' and visibly standing for turnaround

TOKYO – The chief of Sony Corp., one of the best known Japanese companies, praised the country’s prime minister Friday for his efforts to jump-start the economy and put the nation back on the global stage.

“From my perspective, he is saying all the right things,” Kazuo Hirai, Sony Corp. chief executive and president, said of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office late last year.

Abe was restoring global confidence in Japan, he said, while stressing that delivering on promises with action was critical.

But Hirai was hopeful Abe would deliver, and he praised Abe as being more “visible” than his predecessors, including Abe during his previous stint as prime minister from 2006 for less than a year.

Abe is banking on policies dubbed Abenomics that centre on structural reforms, easy monetary policy, relaxed labour regulations and free trade to return to growth. Still, he has not outlined a concrete plan that would overcome the challenges presented by Japan’s aging population and shrinking workforce.

The prime minister has been aggressive in trumpeting his views.

He gave a presentation in English to woo the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo, a bid that proved successful. He asked investors to “buy my Abenomics” in a speech at the New York Stock Exchange that was unusually flamboyant for a Japanese leader.

The benchmark for the Tokyo stock market has recovered since Abe took office. And Japanese companies have already reaped in one major benefit from Abenomics — a weak yen, which helps exporters, by boosting their overseas revenue when converted into yen.

The dollar has been trading close to 100 yen recently, compared to about 80 yen before Abe came to power.

Abe is also promising a corporate tax cut.

“He’s more visible,” Hirai said at Sony’s Tokyo headquarters. “He projects a more confident Japan generally.”

Sony has struggled in the face of intense competition from Apple Inc. of the U.S. and South Korean rival Samsung Electronics Co.

Its TV business has been losing money for nine years. Sony eked out a profit for the fiscal year ended March 2013, following four years of losses.

But the maker of PlayStation 4 video-game machines, Bravia flat-panel TVs and Spider-Man movies is trying to regain its reputation for innovation through new smartphones, digital cameras, a “4K” TV which delivers better image quality than today’s TVs, as well as audio products with sound quality eight times better than a CD.


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