Sony has named Howard Stringer as its new chairman andchief executive, handing the reins of the struggling conglomerate to aforeigner for the first time.

Sony's board agreed to appoint Stringer - the Welsh-bornhead of its U.S. operations and entertainment division - at an extraordinarymeeting in Tokyo on Monday morning. Current CEO Nobuyuki Idei, 67, will stepdown to take responsibility for slumping earnings after five years at the helm.

Stringer, a former TV journalist, will face the difficulttask of boosting profitability at Sony. In recent years, the company's core electronics division has struggled with tough pricecompetition and a lack of hit products.

Stringer had a 30-year career as a journalist, producerand executive at Viacom Inc.'s CBS television network.

He joined Sony in 1997. Known for his skills as adeal-maker in the entertainment industry, Stringer oversaw the acquisition ofMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer by a Sony-led group last year.

He has also overseen a string of hits coming out of Sony,including the hugely profitable Spider-Man franchise. In fact, theentertainment units headed by Stringer, in particular Sony Pictures, have beenthe only growing assets for the conglomerate in recent years. Last month, forexample, Sony feature Hitch broke box office records for a romanticcomedy.

Outside the entertainment division, Sony has struggled.The company recently slashed its operating profit estimate for this businessyear by 31%, citing sharply falling prices of flat panel televisions, DVD recordersand other key products and weak demand for chips.

The downward revision was the latest blow to investorconfidence in management, still reeling from the "Sony Shock" inApril 2003 when it unveiled a $1bn quarterly loss that triggered a two-day, 25 percentslide in the company's shares.