Sony Ericsson moving HQ to Atlanta amid cuts

Sony Ericsson is moving its headquarters to Atlanta from North Carolina's Research Triangle area as part of a global consolidation by the wireless handset maker.

It's unclear how many of the 425 jobs in Sony Ericsson's operations near Raleigh-Durham will move to Atlanta or when. But major functions of the operation could go to China or other company locations, spokeswoman Stacy Doster said.

Doster said the company has not decided how many Atlanta jobs will be filled by relocating employees or with new hires.

Sony Ericsson picked metro Atlanta because AT&T Wireless, one of its largest customers, is based here and Atlanta's airport is a gateway to Latin America.

The company already has a small Atlanta presence, with 18 employees working from offices in Buckhead. Those workers are in sales, marketing and customer support, so it's likely any jobs coming from North Carolina would be related, Doster said.

The North Carolina facility also has research and development and is home to the chief technology officer. But research and development could move to China while other functions go to company offices in Redwood Shores, Calif., Doster said.

The company is consolidating its North and South American headquarters operations into a single Region Americas office in Atlanta. Anderson Teixeira, current head of the North American operations, will run Region Americas from Atlanta, Doster said.

Doster said the company does not have a timetable for moving.

"We have to look at our employees' needs and our customers' needs," she said.

The company -- a joint venture formed in 2001 between Sony Corp. and Ericsson -- has been losing global market share to Nokia and Samsung. In the third quarter, Sony Ericsson had 4.3 percent global market share, compared with Nokia's 36.7 percent, according to research firm Gartner. In last year's third quarter, the figures were 8.1 percent and 38.2 percent, for Sony Ericsson and Nokia, respectively.

Sony Ericsson last spring announced it planned to cut 2,000 jobs from its global workforce. As of October, the company had cut 400.

Georgia economic development officials say the state wasn't involved in Sony Ericsson's relocation and did not put together an incentive package. North Carolina officials say the company did not approach it about putting a package for staying.

"We were not involved in the company's decision to relocate, but we are very happy to see them come," said Alison Tyrer, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Even though it is retrenching, she said the company fits in one the state's target industries for job growth, advanced communications.

Georgia ranks 1oth nationwide in high-tech jobs -- 177,541 -- according to a TechAmerica Cyberstates 2009 study. The study, using 2007 figures, the most recent numbers available, said the state's gain of 2,000 high-tech jobs that year was second-highest in the nation. Most of Georgia's high-tech jobs, about 127,000, are in metro Atlanta, according to TechAmerica research.

Growth in that sector, as well as some of the marquis names with a metro Atlanta presence, help attract other firms, say officials at the Metro Atlanta Chamber. They include Samsung and Pirelli Labs, and Georgia Tech is also a draw, officials say. The chamber has a New Economy Task Force to bring high-tech jobs to the region.

"We're very proud (Sony Ericsson is) consolidating in Atlanta and we think it's a good fit because they will find the workforce they need here and they will be able to serve their customers," said Hans Gant said, senior vice president of economic development at the chamber. "We've got some great brands here already. You add Sony Ericsson to the list of brand names, it's a great story."

In Other News