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Sony Negotiates Purchase of MGM Movie Studio - 2004-04-23

The world's biggest film library could soon be in Japanese hands. The prospective buyer, Sony, meanwhile, is boosting its profit projections. And shipments of consumer electronics goods are on the rise in Japan. Those are among the stories in Japanese business news.

Various media are reporting that Sony is in talks to acquire the MGM film studio. The reports say the sales price is about $5 billion.

People close to the talks are saying that Sony plans to bring in private-equity firms to help finance the acquisition of what is considered the world's biggest film library.

Sony on Tuesday revised upward its profit and sales projections for the business year. The Tokyo-based company says it is doing better because of increased profits in the United States and foreign exchange gains. Net profit for fiscal 2003 will come to about $800 million up from the earlier estimate of some $500 million.

Domestic shipments of consumer electronics goods increased nearly five percent in fiscal 2003 to $20 billion. That is the second straight annual gain.

The Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association attributes the rise to healthy sales of digital household devices such as DVD players. Sales of new flat screen and plasma display panel TV's also increased significantly, while shipments of conventional cathode-ray tube sets dropped more than 17 percent.

It is unusual in Japan for a woman to become the president of a publicly traded company. And it is just as unusual for a former athlete to assume such a post. Yuko Mitsuya, the new president of the Charle Company listed on the Osaka Stock Exchange, is both.

Ms. Mitsuya says when she was asked about taking over the 30-year-old company it took only about three seconds to decide. She says it might be painful at times but she wants to give it a try.

Charle, based in Kobe, sells ladies underwear door-to-door and has annual sales of more than $350 million. Ms. Mitsuya was a bronze medalist on the Japanese volleyball team in the 1984 Olympic games.

One of Japan's oldest industries is seeing an innovation. The rice price center, a public entity that holds rice auctions, says that several months from now it will begin forward delivery transactions. That will allow producers and wholesalers to trade rice for delivery in the near future.

Industry experts say the innovation comes after last autumn, when wholesalers - who dominate the market - rushed to buy huge amounts at high prices amid the worst rice harvest in a decade. But then prices dropped sharply, causing big losses.