Just over four years ago, I wrote in this column about Sony Group Corp, the iconic Japanese consumer electronics firm that was facing an array of challenges as tech giants like iPhone maker Apple, software powerhouse Microsoft, entertainment colossus Walt Disney Inc, and South Korea’s hardware and chips behemoth Samsung Electronics left it in the dust.

The Tokyo-listed shares of Sony had cratered to under JPY3,400 and analysts I talked to at the time were of the view that the stock had more downside in the short term. Last week, Sony’s shares topped JPY13,200 — a whopping fourfold increase since April 2017. In comparison, Apple shares have risen a similar four-fold over the same period, while Amazon.com stock is up only 3.7 times.

Sony is not seen as a cutting-edge technology firm these days, nor is Japan considered a market where investors would seek spectacular four-fold returns. But let’s give credit where it is due. Sony has undergone an extreme makeover over the past five years and as such, it is now no longer the old fuddy-duddy Japanese firm your parents or grandparents used to rave about. Sony invented the battery-powered transistor radio in the mid-1950s and popularised mobile radios in the 1960s. In the 1970s, it became the global leader in colour TVs and Betamax video-cassette recorders. In the late 1990s, it invented aibo, the robot dog. But it missed the switch to MP3 players and tablets as well as mobile phones, as Apple entered consumer electronics unveiling its iPods, iPads and iPhones, and an array of South Korean and Chinese manufacturers followed. 

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