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Sony Shifts Pension Management

February 27, 1998

TOKYO (AP) _ Sony Corp. said Friday it has withdrawn pension money managed by Japanese life insurers and reinvested it with mostly foreign money managers, the latest big corporation to show impatience with the country’s sluggish financial sector.

``We made our decision based on performance results,″ said Sony spokesman Tatsuya Inada. ``Many foreign firms have produced good returns.″

Four of the five trust banks and about half of the investment advisors chosen by Sony are foreign affiliates of major American and European financial companies.

In 1996, Japanese insurers had 40 percent of Sony’s $1.59 billion pension business. Sony cut their share to 22 percent last year and then pulled out the rest this month.

Amid low interest rates and a depressed stock market, a number of big Japanese manufacturers have also sought out foreign financial advisors to help manage their retirement funds, including Honda Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp.

Until recently, red tape and tradition kept almost all of corporate Japan’s estimated $1.59 trillion in retirement savings locked up with a handful of Japanese life insurers and trust banks who invested mostly in domestic bonds and stocks.

But regulatory reform and declining loyalty to longtime business associates has opened the door to foreign-owned specialist investment advisors, such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

The Japanese government has also opened up public pension coffers to these and other foreign companies in order to boost returns as Japan’s population ages and payouts to retirees swell.

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