PARENTS are facing a desperate dash to ensure one of this year's must-have Christmas presents makes it onto Santa's sleigh.

Retailers across the region have been left without any PlayStation 2 games consoles after Sony hit production problems with its hardware.

The global electronics company last night confirmed it has "stock issues" over the manufacture of the units, which retail at about £100 each.

A spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe said: "We do have stock issues at the moment, but there are no problems with the machine itself.

"It is not an ideal position to be in under any circumstances, never mind before Christmas. Everyone here is doing everything they possibly can to try and solve the situation."

Industry insiders said the firm is hiring a fleet of the world's largest carrier planes from Russia to deliver units to the UK, in a bid to make sure youngsters are not disappointed on December 25.

Sony is today issuing every video games store in the region with an information poster, promising that fresh stock will be issued early next month.

Major retailers are so concerned about a shortage they are refusing to take more orders.

A spokeswoman for Dixons said: "We are not guaranteeing the stock and cannot take orders.

"As a service, we are taking customer details and will give them a call once stock comes back in."

The PlayStation 2 has been hugely popular since its release in November 2000.

Sony issued a new slimline version of the console at the beginning of November. But problems at its manufacturing plants have resulted in a major shortage.

Don McCabe, joint managing director of Middlesbrough-based store chain Chips, said: "It looks like it is going to be very tight.

"We are looking at putting a pre-order scheme together for customers.

"But it is very difficult when you don't know how much stock you are going to get and when you are going to get it."

The company said it could not give out figures for how many of the units it has already sold, or the projected production shortfall.

But it could prove a major boon for Sony's rivals in the hugely lucrative consoles market - Microsoft and Nintendo.