Sony to beef up chip business with new engineers

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Sony Corp said on Thursday it will assign 40 percent of its new engineer hires in Japan over the next two years to the chip business which includes imaging sensors, as it looks for growth from new applications in everything from cars to phones.

The allocation is in line with the company’s plans to invest 600 billion yen ($5.4 billion) in imaging sensors over the three years through March 2021, or half of the group’s planned capital expenditures.

Sony controls more than half of the imaging sensor market for smartphones, and the sensor business was a key driver of a turnaround for the conglomerate which in its heyday led the world in consumer gadgets.

Investors are looking for the next profit pillar as Sony’s gaming business shows signs of slowing, with its popular PlayStation 4 (PS4) console nearing the end of its lifecycle.

But the company cut its annual profit outlook for imaging sensors this month to 130 billion yen, accounting for just 15 percent of the group’s overall profit, due to weakening global demand for smartphones.

Sony plans to hire 320 new engineers annually in Japan this year and the next, up from 250 in 2018. The figures do not include those to be hired by overseas units.

Chipmakers have mostly maintained their long-term investment plans as they look to new technology such as fifth-generation (5G) communication networks and artificial intelligence to fuel growth in the industry.

SK Hynix Inc on Thursday said it would spend $107 billion building four memory chip factories in South Korea beginning 2022.

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