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STRINGER: SONY MUSIC MAY MERGE, BUT IS NOT FOR SALE

Sony America Chairman/CEO Uses the “C” Word in Front of Investors
Sony’s Sir Howard Stringer told investors in New York Tuesday that Sony Music is not for sale, but did confirm that the company is in talks concerning a possible music merger.

The Sony America Chairman/CEO spoke to investors while unveiling Sony’s new “convergence” strategy, which will seek to find more ways to use its movie, music and game units to drive sales of its electronics products.

While Stringer declined to comment on any specific merger talks, he did say Sony intended to maintain a controlling stake in any deal, according to both the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Sony has been rumored to be holding talks with Bertelsmann about a possible merger with BMG.

Sony’s emphasis on “convergence” has to do with investor perception that the company’s electronics and entertainment units have been at odds in recent years. As part of the new strategy, Sony will launch a music download service, announced earlier this year, to compete with Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Sony will also produce a line of portable players selling for as little as $60, compared to $200-plus for Apple’s iPod. One of these will be called the PlayStation Portable (PSP), which, like the iPod, will interface with the music service, but will also allow users to play games and watch movies.

Stringer also told investors that he believes music piracy is being brought under control, citing a report that says downloads on file-sharing network Kazaa are declining.

In addition to further cutting staff as part of a massive, across-the-board workforce reduction announced last week, Sony Music will attempt to cut costs by putting fewer tracks on some CD releases, the Journal reports. Stringer said consumers prefer CDs with fewer tracks.

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