Instant view: Sony posts $1.2 billion quarterly operating loss

Thu Feb 2, 2012 8:18am EST

(Reuters) - Japanese electronics firm Sony Corp disappointed with a 91.7 billion yen ($1.2 billion) operating loss in October-December that was worse than analysts' estimates as it battled a strong yen, Thai floods and a dull economy.

The company also forecast a full-year operating loss.

On the eve of the result, Sony named Kazuo Hirai, the company veteran who revived its PlayStation gaming business, as its new chief executive, replacing Howard Stringer on April 1.

COMMENTARY:

FUJIO ANDO, SENIOR MANAGING DIRECTOR AT CHIBAGIN ASSET MANAGEMENT, TOKYO:

"Companies developing gaming software are making profits, but people are not buying game hardware anymore. In an age when everyone can play games on smartphones and iPads, there is no way to boost profits without producing software.

"The results are very bad. If there is just one reason to buy, it's the fact that they switched to a younger CEO.

"Older CEOs are not looking for change. The fact that production will recover after the Thai floods and the Japanese disaster is a given. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they are going to produce something new to boost earnings."

HISASHI KURODA, GENERAL MANAGER OF EQUITY INVESTMENT AT MEIJI YASUDA ASSET MANAGEMENT, TOKYO:

"Sony's earnings were worse than I had imagined.

"Sony has few businesses that have value. The only hope is perhaps, film and music, or whether they can make recovery in the game business, basically software business, not the hardware one.

"Unless they do radical reforms, like the ones that would put everything completely upside down, Sony may not be able even to make profits.

"In developed countries, only film and music are accepted. Its hardware business is doing poorly. Samsung TVs sell at higher price and now they have to compete with Apple TV.

"In short, it has failed to change.

"One silver lining is that the governance is working and they realized that (under Stringer) the company was shrinking but not developing."

KAZUYUKI TERAO, CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER, RCM JAPAN, TOKYO:

"Their operating losses had been expected to increase, so neither the size of the loss nor the revisions were a surprise.

"It's not clear whether Sony can turn around its TV operations to generate a profit. It's clear that the company can be expected to improve its earnings, as it cuts costs and ends its (LCD) joint venture with Samsung, but it's not clear whether it can improve fast enough to cope with the market as bad as it is.

"And does it have the talent to come up with the creative products of the Sony of old?

"One key in whether or not to buy the shares is actually whether it looks like they'll be able to make the TV operations profitable. With its losses set to shrink in the quarters ahead and the stock now at cheap levels, it wouldn't be unusual for some buying to emerge around here. As for the new president, Hirai, I still don't know how capable a manager he'll be."

MAKOTO KIKUCHI, CEO, MYOJO ASSET MANAGEMENT, TOKYO:

"I don't know what Hirai-san is like, but he can't take a strategy of expansion. It's going to be one of restructuring and merging. It's going to be downsizing."

"Investors don't know what the final cost of restructuring is going to be, how much loss it's going to cause, so even though it is trading below book, its stock doesn't appeal."

On the future of Sony, Panasonic and Sharp:

"I don't think they are going to go out of business and I wouldn't go as far to say they are going to end up as zombie firm, but they face a future of no growth."

WONG KOK HOI, CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER AT APS ASSET MANAGEMENT, SINGAPORE:

"Most of the Japanese electronics companies have been hit by the strong yen. The second issue is they have not been able to come up with blockbuster products. As a consumer electronics player, you need to come up with blockbuster products from time to time. These are the two reasons why the results have been poor in recent years.

"For the Korean companies and to a lesser extent the Taiwanese, the American and the Chinese companies, they will benefit from the weaker Sony.

"They have to get their act together and come up with the blockbuster products that consumers want."

KIM YOUNG-CHAN, ANALYST AT SHINHAN INVESTMENT CORP, SEOUL:

"It won't be easy for Sony to regain its lost ground under new leadership, as its overall competitiveness has sharply weakened. It's got structural problems that will take years to fix.

"It's not just Sony but Japanese IT firms have similar problems. They are failing to innovate and produce industry-leading products in almost every major area from TVs to displays, tablets and smartphones.

"Sony needs to ditch unprofitable businesses including TVs, improve product line-ups and unveil more appealing mobile devices. Otherwise, it will be difficult for them to revive their declining fortunes."

(Reporting by Emi Emoto, Mari Saito, Hideyuki Sano and Tim Kelly in Tokyo, Kim Miyoung in Seoul, Harry Suhartono in Singapore; Editing by John Mair)

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