updated 10/24/2003 6:30:41 PM ET 2003-10-24T22:30:41

Japanese electronics and entertainment giant Sony Corp. plans to eliminate up to 20,000 jobs, or more than 12 percent of its work force, by March 2006 in a major restructuring, a Japanese newspaper reported Monday.

The Nihon Keizai newspaper reported Sony would eliminate 15,000 to 20,000 jobs from its work force of 161,000. It also said Sony would halt domestic production of cathode-ray tubes for televisions at two plants by the end of 2004 to focus on flat-panel TVs.

A Sony spokeswoman, Mariko Yamabe, confirmed that the company is conducting a review of its worldwide operations, and expects to announce a major restructuring Oct. 28.

She refused to comment on the specifics of the newspaper report, but didn’t deny that more jobs could be cut.

But she said the company has been shrinking its work force through a voluntary retirement program since 1995, and said that the newspaper’s apparent link of job cuts to Sony’s ailing TV business wasn’t accurate.

Sony’s electronics division has been struggling for more than a year amid the global downturn. Competition from Japanese rivals and a shift in consumer tastes for such products as flat-panel TVs and DVD recorders has hurt sales and left the company saddled with rising inventories.

Sony says it owns just 6 percent of the global market for liquid crystal display TVs, but is aiming to grab up to 30 percent by March 2004. It currently lags behind rivals such as Sharp, which is believed to control about 60 percent of the global and Japanese LCD TV markets.

Another Sony official, Mina Naito, acknowledged that flat-panel TVs have been a hit with buyers in Japan, the United States and Europe, and that consumer electronics makers are increasingly devoting resources to develop them.

But Naito said Sony isn’t planning to halt global production of cathode-ray tube TVs because demand remains strong in parts of Asia and South America.

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