Sony profitable again, but core electronics still struggling

The company posted an expected annual profit after a huge loss a year ago, but its consumer business is still in the red

Sony made good on a promise to return to profitability after offloading a number of valuable assets last year, but its core electronics business is still losing money.

The Tokyo-based company said Thursday it booked a profit of ¥43 billion (US$440 million) for its fiscal year through March, a year after it posted a ¥457 billion loss, the largest since its founding. The company also increased revenue by 5 percent to ¥6.8 trillion.

The return to profit, a key promise under new CEO Kazuo Hirai, was expected after the company sold off billions of dollars worth of assets during the fiscal period, including its U.S. headquarters, a large Tokyo office complex and share holdings. A lingering worry is the company's failure to generate profit on its consumer electronics.

For the current fiscal year, the company promised a similarly modest profit of ¥50 billion, less than one percent of its projected sales of ¥7.5 trillion.

Sony has launched a new offensive in phones and tablets in recent months, with products such as its high-end Xperia Z smartphone and super-thin Xperia Tablet Z. But the company said its newly formed mobile computing division, its largest in terms of sales, had a deep operating loss. Sony did set an aggressive target for smartphones for the current year at 4.2 million, almost 30 percent higher than the 3.3 million it sold last fiscal year, in line with its goal to capture the number three spot globally behind Samsung and Apple.

The company said it hit its goal of selling 7 million PlayStation portable and Vita consoles, though it cut its goal for the current year to 5 million. This year Sony is gearing up to launch its PlayStation 4 home console, a process that could be costly as game hardware is often sold at a loss early on.

The company also failed to turn a profit in its Bravia TV business, an area it has long struggled and that is now personally managed by Hiria, although it made progress, cutting its operating loss in half from the earlier period.

While the company's electronics businesses continued to struggle, Sony got a lift from other areas of its portfolio. Its movie business increased profits on titles like "007 Skyfall" and "The Amazing Spider-Man," as well as selling rights to related merchandise, overcoming a poor showing for the remake of "Total Recall." Its financial division booked a large operating profit as the Japanese stock market continued to recover.

Sony booked a profit for the January to March quarter, in which it recorded profit for several deals to sell of holdings. Sales were up 8.3 percent from a year ago. The company's fiscal year runs from March through April.

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Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service
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