Sony forecasts return to profit in year to March 2012

May 26, 2011

, TOKYO, May 26 – Japanese electronics and entertainment giant Sony Thursday reported its third annual loss in a row but forecast a return to the black this year despite a huge attack from hackers.

Sony confirmed it suffered a net loss of 259.6 billion yen ($3.2 billion) in the year to March, citing a large write-down in deferred tax assets, but forecast a net profit of 80 billion yen for the year to March 2012.

The Tokyo-based maker of PlayStation consoles and Bravia television sets was forced to shutter plants in Japan after the quake and tsunami disaster battered supply chains, damaged some facilities and dampened consumer demand.

The grim post-quake outlook forced Sony to set aside reserves worth 362 billion yen on certain deferred tax assets in the fourth quarter.

Since last month Sony has also been targeted in cyber attacks involving the theft of names, passwords and addresses from more than 100 million accounts on its PlayStation Network and Sony Online Entertainment services.

Sony said that despite the huge net loss, its operating profit grew to 199.8 billion yen for the year to March, from 31.8 billion yen, and that it expects a similar operating profit this year.

Sales would likely rise 4.4 percent to 7.5 trillion yen in the year that started April 1, the company said.

"Sales are expected to increase year-on-year, despite the negative impact of the earthquake, primarily due to higher sales in LCD televisions… and higher sales in semiconductors," the company said in a statement.

Sony\’s chief financial officer, Masaru Kato, said at a Tokyo news conference that, despite the anticipated higher TV sales, he wasn\’t expecting the sector to return to the black anytime soon.

"We are not expecting to see profits this fiscal year in the TV business. The market environment is not so simple," he said, citing tough competition, high panel costs and falling prices.

"Of course, there are the effects of the disaster. But we just have to focus on the basics. We have to cut fixed costs, lower material costs, and produce attractive products that can command higher prices."

On Monday the electronics giant said the impact of the March 11 quake on sales was estimated at 22 billion yen, while it expected to record 12 billion yen in charges related to idled plants and insurance policy previsions.

In the latest blow, Sony shut down its PlayStation Network and Qriocity services on April 20 after it was hit by hackers, and said it could not rule out that millions of credit card numbers may have been compromised.

The security break led CEO Howard Stringer to apologise in a letter to customers, saying the company was "working with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies around the world to apprehend those responsible".

Earlier this week hackers attacked Sony Ericsson\’s Canadian website, affecting 2,000 users, while Sony sites have also been hit in Thailand, Indonesia and Greece in recent days.

Sony estimates that the initial data breach will result in at least a $170 million hit in "currently known costs" to operating profit this financial year in terms of insurance and damages.

Sony stock ended the trading day up 0.08 percent, before the results were released, after falling slightly earlier in the day.

Mizuho Securities senior analyst Ryosuke Katsura said "the market is concerned whether Sony can post profits in the segment including TV, digital cameras and semiconductors amid the negative impacts of the quake.

"But we expect the company is likely to show performance that beats market expectation mainly on its chip business," Katsura told AFP.

"A possible downside risk is the ongoing personal information leak and hacking problem, if costs to cover damages turn out to be bigger than Sony currently expects."


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