Can Buffett be eyeing Sony's financial unit?

Posted by: Kenji Hall on May 11, 2006

Japan’s financial daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun is well-known for the guessing games it plays. During earnings season, it’s notorious for splashing profit figures on the front page that often turn out to be wrong, and before key central bank policy meetings, it has made bold predictions, citing sources in-the-know, that it later had to retract. Now for another speculative jab: Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman Warren Buffett could be after Sony’s financial unit. I have my doubts.

Over the weekend, Buffett mentioned that he was considering an overseas acquisition and that the hunt could include Japan. The Nihon Keizai (known here as the Nikkei) then dug up Buffett’s comments from six years ago, when he mentioned Sony in passing, and concluded that Buffett could be zeroing in on Sony’s financial unit.

I don’t deny that the division—which includes Sony Life Insurance Co., Sony Assurance Inc. and Sony Bank—would be a prime target for anyone with an acquisitive streak. It’s been one of Sony’s best performing units. But chief exec Howard Stringer won’t likely want to part with such a big money earner now, since its gains were largely the reason the entertainment and electronics giant’s balance sheet wasn’t in tatters in the just-ended fiscal year. Good try Nikkei.

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