x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Mena market in focus for Sony

Sony, the Japanese electronics giant, is expecting sales of $2.2 billion from its Middle East and Africa operations by the end of this year.

Sony's Middle East and Africa chief says the region will play an important role as the Japanese electronics giant looks to rebound from recent losses. Tomohiro Ohsumi / Bloomberg News
Sony's Middle East and Africa chief says the region will play an important role as the Japanese electronics giant looks to rebound from recent losses. Tomohiro Ohsumi / Bloomberg News

Sony, the Japanese electronics giant, is expecting sales of $2.2bn (Dh8.08bn) from its Middle East and Africa operations by the end of this year, up from $2bn last year.

"We have had double-digit growth in the North African countries and East Africa," said Hiroyasu Sugiyama, the managing director of Sony Middle East and Africa. "Morocco and Algeria are growing the fastest and Kenya particularly are driving this growth."

It marks a positive note for Japan's biggest exporter of consumer electronics, which posted a net loss of ¥15.5bn (Dh709.9 million) for the third quarter of this year.

The company has faced stiff competition from the likes of Apple and Samsung and was badly affected by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March last year and the Thai floods in the second half of last year.

Factory and supplier damage drastically reduced production and supply, while the Arab Spring held back progress in the region.

"Sales in the GCC have been quite stable, but some countries that have had political turmoil, like Bahrain, have impacted sales," said Mr Sugiyama.

"I cannot say how much the impact has been, but sales could have grown faster. Sales are still stagnant in the countries that have been affected by the Arab Spring."

Despite these setbacks the company is positive it can return to profit by the end of the financial year.

Sony, with a recently appointed president, Kazuo Hirai, is looking to regain its former glory and focus more on its core products, especially its cameras and phones.

The company is also cutting 10,000 jobs as part of a global restructuring.

"We have exciting products, smartphones, radios... and digital imaging products, which are the fastest growing," said Mr Sugiyama.

Yesterday, the company launched three interchangeable-lens cameras, the Alpha SLT-A99, Nex-5R and Nex-6 in Dubai.

"Digital imaging will be one of Sony's core businesses and a very significant portion of our [research and development] investments have been allocated to developing unique technologies," said Mr Sugiyama.

Sales of interchangeable-lens cameras have been growing by 20 per cent year on year throughout the world.

"It is a big opportunity for us," said Mr Sugiyama, especially in the GCC.

Saudi Arabia is one of Sony's biggest markets. The company dominates there in handheld video cameras, with 72 per cent of the market share. However it lags significantly in digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras in the kingdom, with just 3.7 per cent of the market.

In the UAE, Sony has a 40.6 per cent share of the handheld video camera market, 34.5 per cent of the compact camera market and 4 per cent of the DSLR market.

"We are a new entrant in the DSLR space and we hope with all these new technologies we'll be able to leapfrog," said Mathew Mathai, Sony's regional general manager for marketing and communications.

He said it was a difficult market to enter because customers tend to keep the same lenses when they buy a new camera body - in effect locking them into a single manufacturer over many product cycles.

"The change will not be as easy as the point-and-shoot cameras," he said. "But we are very optimistic."

The three new cameras will be available this month at branches of Jumbo Electronics, Sony's official distributor in the UAE.

thamid@thenational.ae