* Sony forecasts steady op profit of 230 bln yen for year to
* Op profit in 2012/13 highest in five years, follows
* Sony sees smartphone sales up 27 pct in 2013/14, cameras,
* Electronics business outlook hinges largely on smartphone
By Tim Kelly
TOKYO, May 9 Sony Corp forecast a drop
in sales of cameras and game machines this business year as its
consumer gadget business struggles despite a rebound in profit
to five-year highs and a boost from the weak yen.
Sony's bid for revival as an electronics maker now hinges on
sales of its smartphones, which it projected to rise more than
one-fourth to 42 million in the year to next March, as consumer
spending converges on Apple Inc's iPads and Samsung
Electronics Co's Galaxy phones.
In the year to next March, Sony expects an operating profit
of 230 billion yen ($2.33 billion), compared with the average
210 billion yen profit estimated by 19 analysts surveyed by
Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S before Thursday's earnings announcement.
The company bounded back into the black last year with a
profit of 230.1 billion yen that was bolstered by earnings from
the sale of office buildings in Tokyo and New York, the
revaluation of stock holdings and gains from the sale of
businesses including a chemical unit.
Its mainstay electronics business has continued to struggle
however, with both its mobile and TV businesses posting losses
in the last business year.
Sony's boss, Kazuo Hirai, in 2012 identified mobile
products, gaming and digital imaging as the core of a rebound in
consumer electronics after more than a decade of decline for the
pioneer of personal music players and compact discs.
With compact cameras and its PSP and PS Vita handheld game
consoles suffering under an onslaught of smartphones and tablets
PCs, investor hopes for Sony have gelled around its new Xperia Z
phone, which has exceeded sales targets since its launch in
Helping Hirai is a weakening yen that in addition to
bolstering overseas earnings in yen terms is making Sony's
phones and other gadgets more competitive against offerings from
With greater exposure to overseas markets than domestic
rivals Panasonic Corp and Sharp Corp, Sony is
the best-placed among the big three TV makers to gain from the
weaker yen, particularly versus the euro.
The maker of Bravia sets forecast sales of televisions to
rise to 16 million this business year with the division seen
returning to profit, after a sharp drop last year to 13.5
million. It had made 19.6 million TVs in the year to March 2012.
Digital camera sales are forecast at 13.5 million this year,
a 20 percent drop, while its handheld game consoles, the PSP and
PS Vita, are projected to fall nearly 30 percent to 5 million.
Sony has also benefited from steady earnings from music,
movies and its insurance subsidiary that are in stark contrast
to the prolonged doldrums in its hardware business.
Since the start of the year Sony's shares have gained 82
percent compared with a 37 percent rise in the benchmark Nikkei
225. Its shares fell 1.4 percent on Thursday to close at 1,744
yen before it released its latest forecast.