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Sony says China business has recovered, foresees growth

Sony China President Nobuki Kurita gestures as he gives a speech next to a Sony MDR-1R headset and a Sony mobile phone during a news confere
Sony China President Nobuki Kurita gestures as he gives a speech next to a Sony MDR-1R headset and a Sony mobile phone during a news confere

BEIJING (Reuters) - Sony Corp's <6758.T> business in China has "more or less" returned to levels seen before recent protests against Japan's actions over a group of disputed islands, the Japanese company's China chief, Nobuki Kurita, told reporters on Tuesday.

Calls for boycotts of Japanese products broke out across China in September after Japan nationalized two of a group of disputed East China Sea islands, known as the Diaoyu in Chinese and the Senkaku in Japanese, by purchasing them from their private owners.

The spat plunged relations between Japan and China into a deep freeze and hit sales of Japanese goods in China. Kurita said, however, that Sony's China business would recover strongly in the coming three business years after a dip in the current one.

"My general impression is business conditions have more or less returned to the pre-crisis environment," he told a media briefing at a Sony store in eastern Beijing.

He saw sales in China falling 10 percent in the business year to next March from the previous year, but rebounding in the year to March 2013 and growing strongly in the two subsequent years.

Kurita declined to comment on what impact the election of the hawkish Shinzo Abe as Japan's new prime minister could have on Japan-China relations.

Abe has vowed not to back down on the island dispute, but still must balance that stance with the need for stable relations with China. Japanese media have reported that he will send a special envoy to China to mend ties.

"There's no market that has no risk," he said when asked about Japan-China relations.

"Our mandate is to maximize our business potential in any given situation."

Kurita said he expects Sony's business in emerging markets to grow about 40 percent from the current level to reach some 2.6 trillion yen ($31 billion) in the business year ending in March 2015. China would account for "a good chunk" of that growth, he said.

(Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Jonathan Standing and Edmund Klamann)

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