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Saturday, February 04, 2006

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sony Corp <6758.T> is in discussions to sell sizeable stakes in four "non-core" businesses, including a retail outlet and a French restaurant launched by the late Sony founder Akio Morita, a source close the matter said on Saturday.

The four businesses are importer-retailer Sony Plaza Co., cosmetics maker B&C Laboratories Inc., French-restaurant chain Maxim's de Paris Corp., and mail order firm Sony Family Club Inc., according to the source, who declined to be identified.

The sale, which the Nihon Keizai business daily earlier reported would yield Sony several tens of billions of yen, was part of Sony's drive to focus its resources on electronics and other core businesses, the source said.

A Sony spokesman declined to comment on whether any discussions were taking place, but noted that the company had said in September that it would explore forming alliances in its retail businesses to "maximize the value of the assets."

Sony hopes to sell more than 50 percent of the four operations. Nikko Principal Investments Japan Ltd. is one likely buyer and independent investment fund MKS Partners Ltd. could also take part in the deal, the Nihon Keizai said.

In September, newly appointed chief executive Howard Stringer unveiled a sweeping restructuring plan calling for the electronics maker to shed 10,000 employees, shutter several plants and sell off more than $1 billion in non-core assets.

The inventor of the Walkman has watched its fortunes fade in recent years, losing its lead in portable audio players to Apple Computer Inc. and falling behind Matsushita Electric Industrial <6752.T> and others in the flat TV market.

But Sony sparked hopes of a revival late last month by reporting a surprise jump in quarterly profit and raising its full year outlook, helped by a weaker yen, investment gains, and robust sales of game consoles and liquid crystal display TVs.

($1=118.49 Yen)

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