Recall may cost Sony up to $430 million

Battery debacle will put a big dent in the Japanese electronics maker's short-term earnings, analysts say.

Dell's recall of 4.1 million notebook batteries could cost Sony anywhere from $85 million to $430 million, hurting the Japanese electronics maker's short-term earnings, analysts said.

"As the batteries were made by Sony, the possible impact of the news on Sony's earnings is a concern," said Eiichi Katayama, an analyst at Nomura Securities. "Until management discloses details of the cause, the risk of a larger impact remains."

The recall comes just as Sony tries to revamp its electronics business with its Bravia-brand LCD TVs and Cybershot digital cameras, as it faces fierce competition from rivals Samsung Electronics and Sharp.

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Dell, the world's largest personal computer maker, announced on Tuesday the biggest recall in its 22-year history, saying the lithium ion batteries made by Sony could smoke and catch fire.

Although analysts gave a wide range of cost estimates related to the recall, most noted that Sony's battery-supply business is small compared with its overall operations, even if the company eventually would lose its battery-supply business with Dell and others.

Macquarie analyst David Gibson estimates Sony's battery operations account for roughly 3 percent of Sony's total electronics sales and 6 percent of the company's operating profits.

Gibson estimated the recall would mean a one-off cost of 15 percent to 23 percent of Sony's full-year net profit forecast.

A Sony representative said the company is still assessing the possible financial impact of the recall.

The representative added that nothing had been decided on whether Sony would pay for all the recall costs involved. The overheating problem is believed to be specific to the batteries supplied to Dell, he said.

U.S. consumer safety officials said Tuesday they are reviewing all Sony-made lithium ion batteries in laptops for fire hazards.

The Sony batteries are also used in laptops made by Hewlett-Packard, Apple Computer and Lenovo.

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