Sony negotiates sale of battery business to Murata

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Selling a portion of the battery unit marks a reversal for Sony, the first company to launch a Li-ion battery in 1991.

Sony Corp has agreed to sale a portion of its unprofitable battery business to Apple supplier Murata Manufacturing, in a deal that could pave the way for a new player to emerge in the growing electric vehicle (EV) power market.

The electronics giant announced that it has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Murata, confirming the company's intent to negotiate—for an undisclosed amount—the transfer of its battery business, including Japanese subsidiary Sony Energy Devices Corporation, Sony's battery-related manufacturing operations in China and Singapore, as well as the assets and personnel assigned to the battery business at the Sony Group's sales and R&D sites in Japan and worldwide.

Sony, however, will keep operations related to consumer sales of Sony-branded USB batteries, alkaline batteries, button and coin batteries, and mobile projectors.

"Murata and Sony are aiming to execute binding definitive agreements by the middle of October 2016, and to complete the transfer by the end of March 2017, subject to required regulatory approvals," the companies said in a joint statement.

Selling a portion of the batteries unit marks a reversal for Sony, which had been adamantly against the Japanese government's efforts to create a brand that will compete against Korea's Samsung SDI and LG Chem. Sony was the first to roll out a commercial lithium-ion battery in 1991, but its battery business has been in the red since 2010.

Now, the Japanese electronics company is shifting focus to its growing games business, starting with the upcoming launch of a virtual reality headset. Sony also plans to re-enter the robotics industry.

For Murata, acquiring Sony's battery unit is part of the company's strategy as it ventures into cars, healthcare and energy sectors.

"Murata intends to position the global battery business as a core operation within its energy business in order to target further business growth and expansion," the company said.

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