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Sony Scrambles To Contain Growing Battery Troubles

Sony, scrambling to contain the fallout from widening defective battery problems, launched a global replacement program as computer makers Toshiba, Fujitsu and Lenovo announced major recalls. Sony will offer to replace certain battery packs for notebook computers in response to concerns at recent overheating incidents, the company said.

"This is a program to ease the worries of computer makers and consumers," said Sony spokesman Takashi Uehara in Tokyo. "This is not a compulsory recall," he said, adding it was not yet clear how many laptop computer batteries might be returned.

Soon after the announcement, Japanese electronics giant Toshiba said it was recalling batteries from the dynabook, Satellite, Qosmio, TECRA and PORTEGE laptop ranges, a move expected to affect 830,000 computers worldwide. Fujitsu followed suit, saying it would exchange battery packs used in its FMV notebook computers although no malfunctions had been reported with them.

Analysts said it was hard to quantify the potential magnitude and cost of the problem but believed it so far looked manageable for Sony, which has recently rebounded under a major restructuring plan. "The number of recalls is difficult to estimate now and there is the question of how many customers will replace batteries without any problems," said Tatsuya Mizuho, a director at the credit rating agency Fitch Ratings.

On Sept. 28 China's Lenovo, which took over IBM's ThinkPad personal computer unit last year, said about 526,000 lithium-ion batteries made by Sony were susceptible to overheating and would be replaced free of charge.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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