Howard Stringer, the Welsh-born American head of Japanese games, music and electronics giant Sony, is to step down as its president and CEO, the company said Wednesday. He will be succeeded by Kazuo Hirai, a games and music veteran, who will take over as president and chief executive in April, a company statement said, while Stringer will become chairman of the board of directors in June. \"I look forward to helping Kaz in every way I can so that succession leads inevitably to success,\" said Stringer. \"He is ready to lead, and the time to make this change is now.\" Hirai, 51, played a major role in developing the PlayStation in the 1990s and has spent most of his career at Sony in videogames, movies, music and other software businesses. \"As challenging as times are for Sony now, were it not for the strong leadership of Sir Howard Stringer these past seven years, we would have been in a much more difficult position,\" he said. Reports have previously said the Tokyo-based maker of PlayStation consoles and Bravia televisions is planning a drastic restructuring under Hirai to try to return to profit after four consecutive years in the red. Hirai\'s earlier promotion to deputy president was seen by analysts as signalling a greater focus on pushing content to multiple hardware platforms such as game consoles, smartphones and tablet computers. Sony is projecting an annual net loss this year of 90 billion yen ($1.2 billion), as it reels from the impact of a strong yen, weak sales, and severe flooding in Thailand. Two weeks ago, ratings agency Moody\'s downgraded Sony\'s debt to Baa1 from A3, saying the company faced \"weak and volatile\" earnings and a long struggle to get back on a firm financial footing. The company\'s television division has been particularly troublesome, losing money in the face of severe competition and minuscule margins. In December, Sony extricated itself from a joint liquid crystal display-making venture with Korean electronics giant Samsung after seven years. Sony had a particularly troubled 2011. A massive data breach forced it to shut down its PlayStation Network and Qriocity services in April with more than 100 million customer accounts compromised, in a crisis that quickly followed Japan\'s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. Stringer, 69, is the latest in a series of high-profile foreigners to leave top positions in Japanese firms. Briton Michael Woodford was sacked as CEO of camera and medical equipment maker Olympus, later revealing the firm\'s cover-up of $1.7 billion in losses, while Jasjit Bhattal, the Indian-origin head of Nomura\'s wholesale division, resigned from Japan\'s top brokerage in January.