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Sony gives assurance on Welsh jobs; Electronics giant explains why Bridgend plant is sheltered from world trends.

JAPANESE electronics giant Sony has given assurances that no job cuts are planned at its Bridgend operation, despite a global downturn in profits Last week the electronics, games, music and movies giant suffered a 69% drop in first-quarter pre-tax profits, due to weaker performances in most of its key businesses.

The consumer electronics and entertainment group suffered a 7% decline in sales in the first three months due to sluggish demand, with net profits dropping 98%, raising concerns as to whether Sony would be able to meet its pledge to return to stronger profitability after the ``Sony shock'' of last quarter.

Managing director of Sony's operation at Bridgend Tony Abbot, said the company had just recruited several hundred new workers and was running at full capacity.

He said, ``We have stopped summer holidays and spread them over the next six weeks to keep production running.''

As the peak season approaches staff numbers are expected to rise to 2,400 including temporary staff and the company expects to start recruiting workers for twilight shifts in three weeks.

Mr Abbot said the continuing success of digital television in the UK, especially the growth and success of BBC's Freeview, was providing a good stimulus for the company.

``We have been supporting digital UK for four years and it's now coming to the point where all that investment is beginning to pay off,'' he said.

``So unlike the rest of the world the situation in the UK is positive and that helping us have a situation here different to the parent company.''

Referring to the recent dispute with Phillips LG over import duties on the 36-inch television tube imported from the US, Mr Abbot said there would be no implications for the Bridgend operation.

``At the outset we factored in the fact we had to pay duty at some point and it will have no effect at all,'' he said.

``If we import these from America where the market is biggest then there are import duties to be paid. We have to run our business knowing we have to import them into the European Community.''

``Interests rates are low, keeping the economy buoyant. In June consumer spending was good and the economy as a whole is better than many other places in the world.

``I said two years ago the strategy for this company would be digital and it's taken a while but is now starting to pay off.

``But there is price erosion in the market and we have to maintain a really keen competitive edge so I wouldn't say life is easy.''

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UPBEAT: Sony managing director Tony Abbot says the continuing success of digital television in the UK was providing a good stimulus for the company
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jul 29, 2003
Words:456
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