Sony Ericsson divorce imminent: report

Swedish mobile equipment maker Ericsson may soon be pulling out of its mobile handset partnership with Japanese electronics giant Sony, according to media reports.

Citing people familiar with the negotiations, Manager Magazine reports that Sony is interested in assuming sole ownership of the Sony Ericsson mobile handset venture.

According to the magazine, Sony is currently negotiating with banks to secure financing for the takeover, a task complicated by the recent economic downturn.

Rumours about an eventual split between Sony and Ericsson have surfaced before.

Back in August Sony chairman Howard Stringer told German newspaper Die Welt that his company was in ongoing discussions with Ericsson about making Sony Ericsson more successful, but refused to answer directly when asked whether or not the handset venture would exist in three years.

“We’ve had a hard year, but it’s not easy to buy out a partner,” he told Die Welt.

“We need to once again cooperate like we did two years ago or our joint company find its own solution.”

But as recently as one month ago at the World Mobile Congress, Ericsson CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg affirmed his company’s long term commitment to Sony Ericsson.

“It’s been great so far and we appreciate our relationship both with Sony and Sony Ericsson,” he told the Financial Times (FT) newspaper.

Ericsson spokesperson Jana Mancova refused to comment on the report to the Dagens Industri, instead refering to Svanberg’s earlier statements.

Sony Ericsson was created in 2001 as a joint venture between Sony and Ericsson. In the fourth quarter of 2008, the company reported record losses of more than 2 billion kronor ($239 million).