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Sony ends TV panel joint venture with rival Sharp under new strategy

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TOKYO - Sony Corp. is ending its joint venture with rival electronics maker Sharp Corp. to produce and sell large liquid-crystal displays for TVs — part of its new strategy to buy panels rather than invest in manufacturing them.

Sony said Thursday it will sell back to the joint venture Sharp Display Products Corp. all 7 per cent of the stake it has held since 2009. Sony won't lose any money as it will receive 10 billion yen ($126 million), the same as what it paid for shares in the Sharp subsidiary, which produces panels in Sakai city, western Japan.

Tokyo-based Sony, which makes the Walkman portable player and PlayStation 3 game machine, recently also ended its joint venture with Samsung Electronics Co. to produce flat panels.

Sony said in March it will not raise its stake in Sharp Display Products as initially planned. Thursday's move completes the pullout.

Sony has bled money for eight straight years in its core TV business, bashed by competition from Samsung and other Asian rivals.

Sony had a glamorous TV business when people were still buying fatter cathode-ray tube sets, and fell behind when rivals, and consumers, switched to flat-panels.

The decision to get out of panel-making comes as Sony seeks a turnaround under President Kazuo Hirai, appointed in February.

Sony officials say the company will simply start buying panels from manufacturers at good prices, and focus on Sony's own imaging and other technology to differentiate its TVs from rivals.

Sony racked up a record annual loss of 457 billion yen ($5.7 billion) in its fourth straight year of red ink for the fiscal year ended March. It is projecting a return to profit this fiscal year.

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at http://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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