UPDATE 3-Sony CEO’s $4.5 mln pay stirs shareholders

* Stringer was paid 410 mln yen plus stock options

* Some shareholders criticise CEO’s pay package

* Japanese firms forced to reveal pay above 100 mln yen
(Adds details, shareholder comment)

By Isabel Reynolds

TOKYO, June 18 (BestGrowthStock) – Sony Corp (6758.T: ) CEO Howard
Stringer took home $4.5 million plus stock options in the past
financial year — when the electronics giant lost close to $450
million — making him one of the highest paid executives at a
Japanese company.

The size of the Welsh-born chief’s salary drew some
grumbles, but little overt anger from the nearly 8,000 mostly
elderly shareholders at the annual meeting in a Tokyo hotel on
Friday.

New rules force reluctant Japanese companies to reveal what
they pay executives earning over 100 million yen ($1.1 million)
a year, and Sony, the maker of Bravia TVs, Vaio personal
computers and PlayStation game consoles, is among the first to
do so.

Most Japanese CEOs are thought to earn far less than
Stringer, or Nissan Motor Co’s (7201.T: ) Brazilian-born Carlos
Ghosn, who is set to reveal his pay package later this month.

Rival electronics manufacturer Panasonic Corp (6752.T: ) said
it would pay its 23 directors a total of 957 million yen — or
about one tenth each of Stringer’s remuneration.

Stringer, a former TV producer, was voted back in as
chairman and chief executive at the meeting, despite having
struggled to significantly improve Sony’s competitiveness since
he took the top job in 2005.

Sony posted a net loss of 40.8 billion yen in the year to
March and continues to play catch-up with rivals such as
Samsung Electronics (005930.KS: ) in TVs and Apple Inc (Read more about Apple stock future.) (AAPL.O: )
in portable music. It has forecast a 160 billion yen profit for
the current financial year.

Much depends on how well it does in its aggressive drive
into 3D TV and motion-controlled gaming.

“He’s not produced results yet, but I think Sony is the
only Japanese electronics maker that can transform itself to a
horizontal business structure like Apple from a vertical one,
because Sony still has strong brand power,” said Keita
Wakabayashi, an analyst at Mito Securities.

SHAREHOLDERS GRUMBLE

Shareholders said they welcomed the new openness on
executive pay, but some were unhappy with the amount Stringer
received. One asked him how he planned to take responsibility
for the company’s losses, but most kept their complaints for
the journey home.

“When you’re making a loss, you need to tighten your own
belt a bit,” said 72-year-old Katsuhiko Koyanagi, a shareholder
and former Sony employee. “That’s the Japanese way, but maybe
he doesn’t understand it.”

Stringer received 410 million yen in fixed and performance
related pay and also has options for 500,000 shares, which will
only have cash value if Sony shares rise.

The stock fell 0.6 percent to 2,549 yen on Friday, and have
dropped almost 30 percent since early April, knocking around
$12 billion off the company’s market value.

The new rules on declaring pay will affect a tiny
percentage of executives.

Just 1.4 percent of directors and 8.3 percent of CEOs at
listed companies in Japan took home more than 100 million yen
in the year to March, according to a PriceWaterhouse Coopers
survey.

Sony Vice Chairman Ryoji Chubachi received 150 million yen
in pay, plus options for 80,000 shares.

External Director Sakie Fukushima told shareholders that
executive pay was decided on the basis of global comparisons,
taking into account the company’s 7 trillion yen in revenues,
the number of employees and the degree of complexity of the
business.

Stock Market News

($1=90.92 Yen)
(Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo and Nathan Layne,
Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

UPDATE 3-Sony CEO’s $4.5 mln pay stirs shareholders