Sony to close last U.S. TV factory

Manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania will be shut down as part of global restructuring

Sony Corp. has identified its Westmoreland, Pa., manufacturing plant as the second factory that will be shut down as part of a global restructuring announced on Tuesday.

The Westmoreland factory is Sony's last remaining TV manufacturing facility in the U.S., and the closure will result in 560 people losing their jobs.

On Tuesday, Sony said it planned to close about 10% of its 57 factories worldwide and lay off 8,000 full-time staffers and a similar number of temporary workers. The cutbacks are part of the company's effort to deal with business slowdowns in many major markets.

"The current economic climate was a key factor that led us to make the strategic business decision to streamline our manufacturing operations not only in the U.S. but worldwide," said Stan Glasgow, president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics, in a statement.

Television manufacturing is scheduled to end at the Westmoreland plant by next February, after which Sony will supply the U.S. market from its factory in Baja, Mexico. The U.S. facility will close completely in March 2010, when TV and Blu-ray Disc repair and U.S. East Coast logistics operations that are there now are also ended.

The Pittsburgh Technology Center, as the facility is known, first opened in 1990 and made large rear-projection TVs. It switched to flat-panel LCD production when that technology became popular and currently produces 46- and 52-in. LCD TVs.

In addition to the U.S. plant closure, Sony said on Tuesday that it will shutter its tape and media factory at the Sony Dax Technology Center in France. Expansion of LCD TV production at its Nitra LCD television factory in Slovakia has also been put on hold.

With the announcement of the planned closure in Pennsylvania, the spotlight now moves to Japan. Sony said two of the planned factory closures will be overseas, so the remaining three or four factories to be shuttered likely will be in Japan.

Sony has been dealt a double blow by the current harsh economic conditions. A recession in its biggest markets is hitting sales, and the strong Japanese yen is cutting into profits on the products it does sell. In reaction to the appreciation of the yen, Sony said it will be forced to increase some product prices in 2009.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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